29,000 cold chain points, 41,000 deep freezers among govt’s storage plans for Covid-19 vaccine
The Union ministry of health on Tuesday announced the Centre’s plans for cold storage chains as it prepares for a large-scale vaccination drive against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) across the country. It includes 29,000 cold chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar refrigerators which will be available for vaccine storage, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on Tuesday.
Bhushan said, during a press brief, that guidelines for estimation of electrical and non-electrical cold chain equipment and their strengthening have been issued to states by the Centre. The guidelines for management of cold chain at last cold chain points and session sites have also been issued, he said. “All these equipment have already been delivered to the states. Some other equipment is being supplied,” he said.
Training modules for people handling the vaccinations like medical officers, vaccinator officers, alternative vaccinator officers, cold chain handlers, supervisors, data managers and ASHA coordinators have commenced both physically and via digital platforms. Moreover, the National and State Training of Trainers (ToTs) workshops have also been completed, he added.
Bhushan also talked about adverse effects of the vaccine, especially in pregnant women and children. “Adverse events following immunisation is a critical issue. When we undertake a universal immunisation program, which has been done for decades, then some adverse effects are seen in children and pregnant women after vaccination,” he said.
The health secretary advised states and Union territories to be prepared to handle such situations since these effects had already happened in the UK on the first day of their vaccination drive. He also said that 23 ministries and departments in the Centre and states have been identified and assigned roles like planning, implementation, social mobilisation, awareness generation, among others, for the vaccine roll-out.
The announcement comes a few days after the Centre said that the vaccination drive was only a few months away. Union minister of state for health Ashwini Kumar Choubey said that initially only 100 people per day would get the shot but eventually everyone would be vaccinated. “We are going to start the process of sending necessary equipment for storage and handling of coronavirus vaccine to states. For now, only 100 people will be given the vaccine at a booth per day. Eventually, everyone will get the vaccine,” he said.
The vaccine carriers, vaccine vials and ice packs are to be strictly kept out of direct sunlight as per the ‘Covid-19 Vaccine Operational Guidelines’. “There may not be vaccine vial monitors (VVM) and Date of Expiry on the label of Covid-19 vaccine, this should not discourage vaccinators from using the vaccine. At the end of the session, the vaccine carrier with all ice packs and unopened vaccine vials should be sent back to the distributing cold chain point,” the guidelines stated.
Officials have said that 36 states and Union territories have already concluded meetings of State Steering Committees and State Task Force and 633 districts have concluded those of District Task Force.
According to the guidelines issued to states recently, the Covid-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) system--a digitalised platform--will be used to track enlisted beneficiaries for the vaccination and anti-coronavirus vaccines on a real-time basis.
The vaccine will first be offered to all healthcare and frontline workers, and the people above the age of 50. For the elderly, there may be subdivisions like people between the ages of 50 and 60 and those above 60, with the priority being given to the more vulnerable as per the availability of the vaccine. The vaccination of 300 million people has been planned in the first stage of the drive.
India currently has 9,906,165 confirmed coronavirus infections and 143,709 deaths.
(With agency inputs)