The Centre has chalked out a detailed cold chain infrastructure plan to prepare the country for immediate rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine, whenever one is ready. No vaccine has as yet received emergency use approval.
The Centre plans to set up at least one centre in every block for managing any Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI), Health Ministry officials said on Tuesday.
The infrastructure would consist of 29,000 cold chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep-freezers, and 300 solar-freezers. The States that do not have adequate cold chain infrastructure have already been provided with the equipment , said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan during a briefing.
The Centre has also sent the guidelines to the States for estimating electrical and non-electrical cold chain equipment and their strengthening. “These guidelines would help the States and Union Territories ascertain how much cold chain equipment they would require to safely preserve the vaccine they receive for inoculation,” Bhushan said.
According to the Health Secretary, all 36 States and UTs have held meetings of their State Steering Committees, headed by Chief Secretaries, and State Task Forces, headed by State Health Secretaries, set up specifically for the purpose of vaccine management and administration. Similarly, 633 districts have held meetings of their task force set up for the purpose.
As many as 23 Central and State government ministries and departments have been given the task of planning, implementation, social mobilisation and awareness creation on the vaccine. Bhushan said modules for training doctors and vaccinators have been prepared and at the national and State levels the training has already been completed. Since this would be the first time that adults will be administered vaccines in such huge numbers, the government plans to closely monitor any adverse event. This is important because earlier vaccines were administered in hospital settings and given mostly to children. But, now, the scale as well as the fact that vaccines will be administered at diverse locations, require a dedicated centre for monitoring and managing serious adverse events, said Vinod Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, who was also present at the briefing. Every block will have a dedicated centre for managing any adverse event.
Though Covid-19 cases are coming down in India, “we need to be cautiously happy”, he said.