COVID-19 vaccine dry run held at 285 session sites across 125 districts in India

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Health minister assures that country’s cold chain infrastructure has been sufficiently upgraded to ensure last mile delivery and that adequate supplies of syringes and other logistics have also been made

A day after the CDSCO’s Subject Expert Committee (SEC) on COVID-19 recommended an emergency use authorisation (EUA) for Oxford University-Astrazeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate Covishield, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today conducted a nationwide mock drill at 285 session sites to test the end-to-end planned operations and the mechanism that has been set up to ensure smooth conduct of the COVID-19 vaccination that is expected to begin soon.

As per the health ministry, the dry run was conducted across 125 districts covering all States/UTs having adequate representation of urban and rural districts along with hard-to-reach areas.

The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan also visited two mock vaccination sites in Delhi to review the dry run drill, first visiting the GTB Hospital in Shahdara and later an Urban Primary Health Centre (UPHC) in Daryaganj.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the digital platform, Co-WIN, repurposed from the e-VIN platform will provide real time information of vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries of the COVID-19 vaccine. This platform will assist programme managers across all levels through automated session allocation for pre-registered beneficiaries, their verification and for generating a digital certificate upon successful completion of the vaccine schedule. More than 75 lakh beneficiaries have been registered on Co-WIN platform till date, he said.

Speaking on the preparedness for ensuring that the vaccine reaches even the remotest corner of the country, Dr Vardhan said that the country’s cold chain infrastructure has been sufficiently upgraded to ensure last mile delivery. Adequate supplies of syringes and other logistics have also been provided for.

He also warned the citizens against falling prey to rumours and disinformation campaigns regarding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine and rubbished rumours being propagated on social media which are raising doubts in the mind of the public regarding the vaccine side-effects. He urged the media to exercise caution and to behave responsibly and check all facts before publishing or broadcasting any reports.

Dispelling doubts regarding the country’s capability to undertake such a massive vaccination drive, Dr Harsh Vardhan noted that India has been applauded by the world for its robust Universal Immunisation Programmes. He said India has conducted several successful immunisation drives with respect to polio, rubella and measles. He narrated his personal experience from the early nineties of having galvanised efforts of millions of Indians which eventually led to the eradication of Polio from the country.

“It is as a result of our steadfastness and dedication, that India was declared polio-free in 2014. Our rich learning from the earlier immunisation drives including the Polio vaccination campaign is being used to guide our present countrywide COVID-19 vaccination campaign”, he stated.

The Minister said that the entire operational planning and IT platform had been field tested in four states on December 28-29, 2020; and on the basis of feedback received, certain enhancements have been made in the system. All the State and District officials have been thoroughly trained for conducting this dry-run that is aimed at testing the laid-out mechanisms for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. This dry run will end with review meetings at district and state level to discuss the issues and challenges encountered during the exercise. States/UTs have been requested to share the feedback with MoHFW which will be analysed for ironing out any glitches in the final execution and further refinement of the operational procedures.