Centre allows vaccination at workplaces
The Union health ministry has allowed vaccination drives at workplaces in a move, aimed at speeding up the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations even as the second wave of the viral pandemic rages through the country. The ministry has written to the states asking them that this be allowed from Sunday, April 11, provided there is an availability of at least 100 eligible and willing beneficiaries.
“…in order to increase the access of vaccines to these populations, Covid-19 vaccination sessions may be organized at work places (both public and private) which are having about 100 eligible and willing beneficiaries by tagging these work places with an existing Covid vaccination centre (CVC). .. initiate due consultations with public and private sector employers and management to prepare for launch of work place vaccination. Such work place vaccination centres may be launched across states and UTs from April 11, 2021,” wrote Union health sectary, Rajesh Bhushan, to all state chief secretaries and principal secretary (health).
While the move will help to some extent, especially in the cities, it is unlikely to address the two key issues slowing the vaccine drive -- supplies and a tight eligibility criteria. To be sure, much of India’s workforce (at least 80% according to the International Labour Organization) is in the informal sector.
The vaccinations at the workplace will be a paid service, and the price is capped at ₹250 per dose.
The idea behind the move is to rapidly cover eligible beneficiaries . It will also ensure that people do not need to travel to get vaccinated, therefore, avoiding the risk of contracting the viral infection.
“A substantial proportion of population aged 45 years and above are in the organised sector of the economy, and is involved in formal occupation in offices (government and private)…” Bhushan wrote in the letter.
The threshold of 100 minimum eligible beneficiaries has been set to have optimal vaccine utilisation, and to avoid wastage as far as possible. It would, however, restrict the provision to companies with very large offices at a single location.
The health ministry’s guidelines said it will be the responsibility of the district task force, chaired by district magistrate, and urban task force, chaired by municipal commissioner, to identify government and private workplaces after due deliberation with relevant employers and head of offices.
Workplaces have been asked to designate an employee as a nodal officer to oversee and facilitate all aspects of the vaccination process.
Experts welcomed the move.
“This is a welcome step. Having more sites and involving more health workers is a prerequisite for enhancing coverage, including expanding to other age groups. Covering persons in workplaces can speed up the pace of vaccination. This approval is aligned with the requests made by some state governments. The next step should be to have outreach sessions, wherein front-line health workers can take vaccines to people,” said Dr Giridhara R Babu, head, epidemiology, Indian Institute of Public Health.
Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan, founder and director, Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, said, “Covering the 45-plus population that is at highest risk should be the priority at this time, but I am not sure that most of them are working in the organised sector.”
The ministry has warned against outsiders, non-employees or family members of employees, taking the jab during these sessions.
According to the guidelines, beneficiaries will still need to register on the Co-WIN portal prior to vaccination. The facility of on-the spot registration will also be available to employees.
To manage adverse events following immunisation (AEFI), all workplace vaccination centres will be attached to a hospital and have a medical officer as supervisor, an anaphylaxis kit, and a basic life support ambulance for shifting beneficiaries to the hospital, if required.