CHENNAI: During April this year, data revealed that Tamil Nadu had been wasting about 8 per cent of the total vaccine supply and that it was one of the States that reported maximum wastage. However, after the new government took charge, the State has now turned the tables to reach zero wastage rates and also extracted an additional 5.88 lakh doses from the given supply.
The data released by the Centre on July 20 showed that Tamil Nadu had wasted zero doses and extracted 5.88 lakh doses from the given supply, making it the State that best utilised vaccine resources, followed by West Bengal, which extracted an additional 4.87 lakh doses, and Gujarat with 4.62 lakh doses.
How did the State manage to generate extra doses from the provided vials and bring wastage rate to zero?
Director of Public Health Dr TS Selvavinayagam says that it is possible to vaccinate 11 to 12 people using a ten-dose vial, without any sort of reduction of the quantity of 0.5 ML required for an accurate dose. He adds that it is also permissible to use a vial for 11 to 12 people.
“Overfill, dead space in syringes and efficiency of health workers are the three concepts that enabled the State to achieve these figures,” he says. Regarding overfill, the manufacturers generally provide 16 to 24 per cent additional dose in a vial. “Secondly, in a syringe, there will be dead space. In high dead space syringes, residual vaccine remains within the needle and the syringe hub and plunger,” he says, pointing out that in some designs of syringes, there may be more dead space. “In Tamil Nadu, we use auto disable syringes designed for immunisation. The dead space is low in these syringes and we can extract more doses,” he said, adding that the efficiency of the health workers too was vital.
“We instructed health workers that if 0.5 ml is remaining in a vial, it can be given to a beneficiary,” he further said. Districts like Karur, Nagapattinam, Kanniyakumari, Sivakasi, Tenkasi, and Tiruppur have used higher than 100 per cent of the supplied doses, while Chennai too, which saw an initial vaccine hesitancy, is now closing the gap. Chief Health Officer of Chennai Corporation Dr Jagadeesan said the Chennai Corporation reduced the vaccine sites and concentrated it to pool more people. “In this way, we were able to bring in a large number of people to a site, resulting in a vial being used 100 per cent,” he said.
Dr Selvavinayagam said that in places like the tribal hamlets in the Nilgiris, local health workers were instructed to mobilise residents and hold camps to inoculate all of them at once. The public response to inoculation was comparatively poor and inconsistent during the initial months of this year, recalls Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan. “After May, the response improved and we gave instructions on focused vaccination,” he said.