NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged all the chief ministers to augment their cold chain capacity for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and set up a task force at the district and block levels for a smooth immunisation.
The special Covid-19 immunisation programme will run parallelly with the existing Universal Immunisation Programme, thogh it will use the latter’s processes, technology and network, officials said.
The National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 under Niti Aayog Member V K Paul and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan have already mapped the available cold chain facilities and made projections for additional needs, they added.
In a virtual review meeting, Modi laid special emphasis on eight high burden states, including Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.
At the meeting, Modi also said any vaccine against coronavirus that is administered to citizens will meet all necessary scientific criteria and stressed that governments at all levels will have to work together to ensure that the vaccination drive is smooth, systematic and sustained.
The modalities of Covid-19 vaccine delivery, distribution and administration were discussed. Modi urged all CMs to share their Covid-19 strategy in writing, adding no one can impose any view and all have to work together to deal with the pandemic.
“Vaccine distribution strategy will be chalked out in collective coordination with states. States must also start working cold storage facilities,” he said.
“It’s yet not decided which vaccine will cost how much. Though two India-based vaccines are at the forefront, we’re working with global firms also,” he said, adding, “Even after drugs have been available for years, some people have adverse reactions. So a decision needs to be taken on a scientific basis.”
Care will be taken to ensure the chosen vaccines meet all the necessary scientific criteria.
Just like the focus in the fight against Covid was on saving lives, priority will be given to ensure that the vaccine reaches everyone, the PM assured.
Past experiences, he said, have shown that several myths and rumours are spread around vaccines, adding they need to be tackled through spreading greater awareness, by taking all possible help.
On the pandemic situation, Modi said the country needs to bring down the positivity rate to 5% and the fatality rate below 1%.
On the controversial PM-CARES fund, he said its special emphasis is on making medical oxygen available.
Strategies to be adopted at the field level, including identifying people to be vaccinated on a priority basis in the states and distribution methods, were discussed, according to officials.
The chief ministers assured Prime Minister Modi that they were ready to work with the Centre to ensure the success of the vaccination programme.
The states apprised about the preparations on the ground, including cold chain centres and training of personnel, and gave suggestions.
At the meeting, the prime minister avoided giving a timeline about the vaccine, saying the government is keeping a close watch as some vaccine candidates have reached the final stage of the trial.
He asserted that the safety of citizens will be as much a priority for the government as the speed of the vaccination programme.
However, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said after the meeting that there are indications that a vaccine may be ready in about four to six weeks.
"He (PM) spoke about it (vaccine) and there are indications that it may be ready in about four weeks, we (centre) are preparing for it and asked the states to also make all the necessary arrangements," Yediyurappa said.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao noted that there are different weather and climatic conditions in the country and the virus also did not uniformly affect the country.
He was of the view that the vaccine too may give different side effects in different regions and this factor too should be considered in the vaccination programme, according to a statement from Rao's office.
So the efficacy and side-effects of the vaccine have to be assessed before it is given to all, Rao opined.
"While there is no fixed date for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine, states have been asked to be prepared as it can happen any time after January," Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told reporters after participating in the meeting through video conference.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that the vaccine should be administered to frontline workers on priority.
The chief minister also informed the meeting that services of NCC National Cadet Corps) cadets, local bodies, and NGOs will be taken for vaccination in urban and rural areas of the state.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said Haridwar Kumbh, slated from January to April, is a priority in the vaccine distribution strategy for COVID-19 in the state considering the huge workforce that will be engaged in organising the event.
He said a steering committee at the state level and task forces in all districts have been set up for vaccination and their meetings are being held regularly.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said his government has started preparations for a massive coronavirus vaccination drive and required logistics will be in place in advance.
The Health Department has been asked to make arrangements for the training of vaccinators, he said.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik cautioned against lowering the guard against COVID-19 even after the availability of a vaccine as the duration of its efficacy will still not be clear.
"Though we have prepared for seamless vaccination programme to save every life on priority basis, we cannot lower our guard even when the vaccine is available as duration efficacy of the vaccine against COVID-19 is still unknown," the chief minister said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray informed the meeting that a task force has been set up to oversee the distribution and vaccination He said the task force will discuss aspects such as availability of the vaccine, its side effects, cost and distribution.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured Prime Minister Modi that her government is fully prepared to work with the Centre and all other stakeholders for the speedy implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the state.
She said the entire nation is looking forward to an early vaccination programme and West Bengal is fully prepared with trained human resources and required infrastructure.
Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who participated in the video conference along with Chief Minister Yediyurappa, said the Centre has asked states to constitute a steering committee at state-level and district and taluk levels for quick and effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccine once available.
He said the plan was to provide the vaccine on a priority basis for 30 crore people.
Among the priority category, about one crore would be health workers, two crore corona warriors, about 26 crore people above the age of 50-60 years and remaining are those with comorbidities, he said.
Distribution centres, cold chain centres and vaccinators are being identified.
The meeting comes as the central government has been putting in place measures for quick and effective distribution of coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.
"The prime minister, during the meeting, said states need to have cold storages ready for vaccines in all districts and also at the public health centres," Meghalaya Health Minister AL Hek said.
Modi asked chief ministers to share their suggestions in dealing with the virus and also about vaccine programme with him in writing, saying no one can impose anything and they have to work together.
The Centre has already asked states to take steps needed for strengthening surveillance of adverse events following immunisation before the COVID-19 vaccine is introduced.
In its letter dated November 18, the Union health ministry listed initiatives which it said are essential to further strengthen the existing adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) surveillance system of India so that timely and complete AEFI reporting for COVID-19 inoculation is possible.
(With PTI Inputs)