As India gears up to launch world’s largest immunisation drive, the government is conducting a dry run on Saturday to assess its ability and readiness to administer shots to hundreds of millions of people, including many in remote corners of the country.
The government has already successfully conducted a two-day pilot Covid-19 vaccination drive in eight districts in four states on December 28-29, but Saturday’s dry run is more ambitious in scope, covering all state capitals, with some states also testing the process’ efficiency in districts located in difficult terrain or which are poorly connected.
In the national Capital, the mock drives will be conducted at three locations – the Daryaganj primary health centre, the government-run Guru Teg Bahadur hospital, and the private Venkateshwara hospital.
Twenty-five beneficiaries – all health care workers – will be present at each site and the vaccination team will demonstrate how they will be registered, how vaccines will be given, and how they will be monitored for adverse events, if any.
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All the sites will have a three-room setup – one waiting room, one vaccination room, and an observation room. A team of four people – one person to check the documents, one to check the registration of the beneficiaries, one to monitor the person, and one to control the crowd — will be present.
The teams will have a vaccine carrier (cold box) that will be used to transport vaccines at the temperature they are meant to be stored from the cold chain points to the vaccination sites.
Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan also conducted a review meeting on the dry run with the Delhi authorities. “The objective of this dry run is to prepare everyone for the huge immunisation drive. There should be good communication between the medical teams and the district administration for smoothly conducting vaccination. This will also let us know whether the registered beneficiaries are getting messages to reach the booth and whether they are getting an e-certificate afterwards. This will also clear up the divisions of lists of beneficieries and any doubts regarding the CoWIN platform,” he said.
“Maharashtra and Kerala are likely to schedule the dry run in major cities other than their Capital. The objective of the dry run for Covid-19 vaccine introduction is to assess operational feasibility in the use of Co-WIN application in field environment, to test the linkages between planning and implementation and to identify the challenges and guide way forward prior to actual implementation. This is also expected to give confidence to programme managers at various levels,” the Union health ministry said in a statement issued on Thursday.
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Co-WIN refers to the Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network, which will help both health authorities as well as the public play their respective roles in the immunisation drive.
Saturday’s dry run will involve 25 health workers eligible to receive the vaccine who will be the test beneficiaries. The states will prepare the vaccination sites, upload details of the beneficiaries on Co-WIN, and basically do everything they will do during the actual vaccination. As detailed in Thursday’s statement, the dry run will also give states an opportunity to check sites for space, electricity and connectivity, logistics etc.
It will also help them figure out aspects of vaccine supply, storage and logistics including cold chain management. States have already been training vaccine administrators and preparing details of the beneficiaries.
Around 150,000 vaccinators have been trained so far, covering over 700 districts. States are also augmenting the helpline 104 (which shall be used in addition to 1075) for any vaccine or software related query.
The focus of the dry run will be on management of any possible adverse events following immunisation (AEFI). In addition, states will also emphasise adherence and management of infection control practices at the session site, to prevent disease transmission.
The mock drill will also include concurrent monitoring and review at the block and district levels, and preparation of feedback.
“A detailed plan with specific dos and don’ts has been shared with States. The dry run is to look at any gaps that may be seen on ground while executing the plan. It is meant to mobilize all aspects except for the vaccine,” said a senior health ministry official who asked not to be identified.
The first round of the dry run was conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Punjab in two districts each.
“No major issues were observed in the operational aspects during this dry run. All States expressed confidence in the operational guidelines and IT platform for large scale programme implementation,” the ministry’s statement said.