The government faces the unenviable task of inoculating all 1.3 billion people in the country. For this, the Centre has formed the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) under the chairmanship of Niti Aayog member (health) VK Paul. NEGVAC is finalising the policy and the funding model for it.
Health minister Harsh Vardhan, who is credited with successfully running India’s polio immunisation programme, told ET that the country is well equipped to introduce an approved Covid-19 vaccine. “India has the world’s largest vaccination programme. We already have a robust system of electronic vaccine intelligence network (eVIN), through which realtime information of vaccine stock availability and their storage temperature across all cold-chain points is available,” he said.
NEGVAC has circulated detailed guidelines to the state governments on how to collect information on priority groups for the vaccination drive. This entails collecting information at the block and district levels on frontline healthcare workers, including Ayush doctors and sanitation workers. The information is Aadhar-based and also helps the government track vaccinators.
The minister said the country has the “scientific power”, manufacturing skill and human resources to “face any challenge”.
For a successful rollout of the programme, the government would have to seek private-sector help to ensure the entire population is covered. Even if the government keeps with itself the responsibility of inoculating the vulnerable groups, it does not have the reach to inoculate people in the remote parts of the country.
“We have an existent vaccine network through which we are implementing our Indradhanush programme. It can be argued that we are only vaccinating children through this programme, but we have a network which needs to be strengthened. We can involve final-year MBBS and nursing students and train them. That will provide us with adequate human workforce,” said Giridhar Giani, director general of Association of Healthcare Providers of India. “Online training programmes would equip them immediately. But at the same time, without the private sector this cannot be done.”