Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat (right) interacts with soldiers deployed in the forward areas of Ladakh on January 12.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat (right) interacts with soldiers deployed in the forward areas of Ladakh on January 12.

Ladakh personnel may be among first from the force to get vaccine

At least 12,000 doses of the vaccine have reached Ladakh of which around 4,000 have been earmarked for armed forces personnel to protect them from Covid-19, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
By Rahul Singh, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 04:18 AM IST

Military doctors, paramedics and front-line soldiers deployed in eastern Ladakh, where India and China are locked in a tense border standoff, will be among the first set of armed forces personnel to be vaccinated against the coronavirus disease, with India all set to kick off an elaborate vaccination campaign on Saturday, officials familiar with the development said on Friday.

At least 12,000 doses of the vaccine have reached Ladakh of which around 4,000 have been earmarked for armed forces personnel to protect them from Covid-19, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“The top priority is being given to military doctors and medical staff who have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. Front-line soldiers have also been identified for vaccination,” the officials said.

The armed forces have been able to keep a check on the spread of the disease within its ranks by adhering to strict protocols, even as army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane described the pandemic and the situation on the northern borders as the main challenges the army confronted last year.

Experts said it was critical to protect frontline military personnel from the disease.

“It is absolutely critical to vaccinate the military medical staff and front-line soldiers against Covid-19, given the crucial role being discharged by them in harsh conditions. Others who are not directly part of the military set up but play a key role in keeping the system in forward areas up and running should also get the vaccine on priority,” said Lieutenant General BK Chopra (retd), a former director general of the Armed Forces Medical Services.

He said the armed forces would have prioritised the list of personnel who have to be vaccinated ahead of others keeping their roles and service conditions in mind. “I am sure all drills are in place to ensure that people are vaccinated on priority according to the government’s guidelines,” Chopra added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation on January 16 to start Covid-19 vaccination in India. As many as 3,006 vaccination centres will be part of this drive.

The vaccination campaign, marking the final phase in India’s long battle against the pandemic, will be held daily from 9am to 5pm, barring the days earmarked for routine immunisation programme.

Officials involved in the preparations said that all pallets of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccines have reached state capitals and their distribution to the districts and blocks is on. Similarly, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, a backup to Covishield, has also arrived in some state.

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