As the race to find an efficacious vaccine against Covid-19 picks up, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged states Tuesday to build decentralised mechanisms, down to the block level, in the form of task forces for smooth administration of the vaccine, expected to take place early next year.
Interacting with Chief Ministers via videoconference, the Prime Minister, while underlining that there is no decision yet on which vaccine will be finalised and when, repeatedly emphasised the key role that states will play in vaccine administration. He urged states to provide individual plans for a final blueprint of the country’s largest immunisation drive.
Cautioning against laxity in the fight against the virus and attributing the recent surge in positive cases to “widespread carelessness”, Modi told Chief Ministers to work towards bringing the positivity rate under 5 per cent and the fatality rate under 1 per cent.
“A few days ago, the Centre had requested states that a steering committee be constituted at the state level (on vaccine administration) and a task force formed at the district level. I suggest that this be done at the block level. We have to do this as fast as possible; we have to delegate this to one person to ensure that there are regular meetings, training, monitoring and online training. Besides, being engaged in fighting the pandemic on a daily basis, we have to parallelly establish this mechanism.”
“I request that you send a detailed plan soon on the vaccine front, and last-mile delivery. This will help us make decisions. The experience of states (on vaccine administration) is of utmost importance. Because everything moves from the state level. You have to proactively participate,” he said.
He assured states that they would be consulted on the distribution of the vaccine once it is available. The “campaign for vaccine for every citizen is a national commitment” and “such a large-scale vaccination campaign should be smooth, systematic and sustainable as it will go on for a long time”.
He said states should examine cold storage requirements, and possibilities of augmenting them. “States should start working on additional cold storage requirements and look where all new cold storage is possible. Directions have already been given by the Centre, but we have to be ready to implement it. We will ensure additional supplies. The detailed plan will be finalised and shared with states soon. Both state and central teams are having a dialogue,” he said.
To queries from states on the pricing of different vaccines, the Prime Minister said pricing is still unknown. “You are well aware of the development of vaccines being reported internationally. We almost reached the final stages of the development of a vaccine. We are keeping a watch on these developments. We are in touch with everyone. There is still no decision on the number of doses; there is still no decision on the price of each of these vaccine candidates. We still don’t have an answer to these questions,” he said.
“There is competition among vaccine manufacturers. Different countries also have diplomatic interests. We also have to wait for the WHO. We have created a mechanism to have real-time engagement with global regulators, governments of other countries and multinational companies,” he said.
“For us, safety is as necessary as speed. Whatever vaccine India will administer to its citizens, it will be a proven one, on all scientific parameters,” he said.
The Prime Minister also requested states to examine the ground situation on the rise in infection rate in a decentralised manner.
“Instead of discussing the national picture, we have to start discussing it in a localised manner; by this, we will be able to address the problem faster. The proportion of the RT-PCR tests have to increase. We have to monitor home-isolated patients in a better manner. Any complacency shown in home isolation can result in a patient arriving in a hospital in severe condition. In such circumstances, we cannot save lives,” he said.
He urged states to ensure oxygen supply at the village level. “At the village level, the primary and community health centres have to be better equipped. Oxygen supply in the vicinity of these villages should be ensured. Our aim should be bringing down the fatality rate under 1 per cent. We have to minutely examine the reason for every death from the smaller towns. That should be the level of focus. Only then we will be able to control the situation,” he said.
“Those who are working on the development of a vaccine are doing that; however, we have to focus on containment of the infection. We cannot be complacent… The trend in some of our states is worrisome. Authorities have to be extra cautious and put more effort in stopping the transmission of the virus,” he said.
He said that in many countries, and in “some states of India”, there is a recent trend of cases increasing and this is “concerning” and “all of us have to be more aware and alert”.
“To control the transmission, we have to increase the pace of our efforts like testing, confirmation, contact tracing, and data. We have to give them utmost priority. We have to bring the positivity rate under 5 per cent.”
At the moment, the country, he said, is going through the fourth phase of the pandemic. In the first phase, there was fear, “everyone was panicking due to the pandemic and everyone was reacting”.
In the second phase, “fear got mixed with doubts about other people, it created an environment of hatred”. People feared they would be cut-off if they tested positive, and “a lot of people started hiding their infection”. The fear, he said, dissipated in the third phase and things began to stabilize. But it also led to the current situation after people became lax, he said.
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