From polling booths to marriage halls, India’s health administrators are evaluating several options for sites where the Covid vaccine can be administered. They will need a few: the aim is to vaccinate 300 million Indians by the middle of the year. Private hospitals or nursing homes will also be tapped for inoculation but the government plans to tightly control the entire process — from storage and transport of the vaccine, to its administration.
Each site will be designed to serve at least 100 recipients. Chosen sites will have to be spacious (with at least three rooms) and close to the homes or offices of the recipients. Vaccination drives will be held from 9am to 5pm in all sites.
Also Read| A weapon to ‘win the war’: US hospitals get initial Covid-19 shots
“We will have two types of sites. There will be fixed session sites and outreach sites. The sites will be identified looking at the of number of recipients in the locality and convenience of vaccine delivery and administration,” said an official involved in the planning who asked not to be named. For outreach sites, polling booths are emerging the preferred choice. “The bulk of the recipients are being identified from the voter list. So, it would be best to allocate sites for them in polling booths,” added the official.
Apart from polling stations—these are usually housed at schools, colleges, and community halls—health authorities are looking at other options that could serve as outreach sites. The centre’s guideline to the states, reviewed by HT, says: “Municipal offices, panchayat bhawans, marriage places (halls), cantonment hospitals/clinics, railway hospitals, encampment of the paramilitary forces, railways and other central PSU colonies etc. can be identified as outreach session sites if they fulfil all the pre-requisite conditions for arranging a session.”
Dr Prantar Chakravarty, a public health expert based in Kolkata, said, “Setting vaccine camps in polling booths or hospitals is a good idea. But the government would do better if it allots specific slots to people—like they do in passport offices—instead of asking them to come anytime between 9am to 5pm. It can make the vaccination process more effective and help maintain social distance.”
Also Read| There’s light at end of the tunnel, says first NYC recipient of Covid vaccine
India used 1.03 million polling booths in the last general elections and officials involved in the vaccination plan said many of these will be used as vaccination sites. “Once the list of co-morbidities and old age are prepared, we would know exactly where all we require to put up vaccine sites,” said a second official involved in the planning who too asked not to be identified. “In case there are fewer than 100 recipients in an area, they will be clubbed with another area.”
A site, according to the guidelines, will have at least three rooms. The first room would be used for identification of recipients and paperwork. The next will be for inoculation while the recipients will wait in a separate recovery room for half an hour after the jab — likely to monitor people for instant anaphylactic shocks or what is known as an adverse event following immunisation (AEFI).
Meanwhile, the public and private health facilities will serve as fixed session sites. “All government health facilities at and above the level of Primary Health Centre/Urban Primary Health Centre can be utilized as sites. Private health facilities with more than 100 health care workers can also be session sites,” said the guidelines. While polling booths cover most difficult terrain and Maoist areas, outreach camps will not be held in those places due to security reasons, the officials said. The government will arrange mobile camps to cater to these areas.