Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare said that the Health Ministry is currently preparing a format in which States will submit lists of priority population groups to receive the vaccine, especially health workers engaged in the management of COVID-19. The list of frontline health workers will include both government as well as private-sector doctors, nurses, paramedics, sanitary staff, ASHA workers, surveillance officers and many other occupational categories who are involved in tracing, testing and treatment of patients. This exercise is targeted to be completed by the end of this October and the States are being closely guided to also submit details about cold chain facilities and other related infrastructure which will be required down to the block level.
He informed that the Centre is also working on plans for building capacities in HR, training, supervision etc., on a massive scale and roughly estimates to receive and utilise 400-500 million doses covering approximately 20-25 crore people by July 2021. He further informed that the government is also keeping an eye on immunity data with regard to COVID-19 disease while finalising these plans.
He stated that there is a high-level committee under the chairmanship of Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog is drawing up the entire process. Vaccine procurement is being done centrally and each consignment will be tracked real-time until delivery to ensure it reaches those who need it most. He added that these Committees are working on understanding the timelines of availability of various vaccines in the country, obtaining commitments from vaccine manufacturers to make available maximum number of doses for India inventory and supply chain management and also on prioritisation of high-risk groups. This is work in progress which will be completed by the time the vaccines are ready to ensure the swift roll-out of the immunisation program.
The Minister assured that there would be no diversion or black-marketing, “Vaccines will be distributed as per pre-decided priority and in a programmed manner. To ensure transparency and accountability, details of the entire process will be shared in the coming months.”
Dr Vardhan also said “that even if we have multiple vaccines available, they will all be safe and will elicit the requisite immune response against novel coronavirus”. He said that all vaccines that have proven to be safe, immunogenic and efficacious in clinical trials outside India need to undergo bridging studies to prove their safety and immunogenicity in the Indian population as well although these studies can be conducted with much smaller sample size and end quickly.
On a question regarding Phase 3 Clinical Trial of Russia’s “Sputnik-V” vaccine in India, Dr Harsh Vardhan clarified that the matter is still under consideration, and no decision has been taken as yet on the Phase 3 trials.
He was interacting with social media users during Sunday Samvaad-4.