Anganwadi centres, schools, panchayat buildings to be transformed into sites for COVID vaccination drives

The health ministry's existing digital platform eVIN which is being used for the UIP is also being enhanced for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and delivery
Image for representational image| Pic: PTI
Image for representational image| Pic: PTI

Anganwadi centres, schools, panchayat buildings and other such setups would be used extensively in addition to healthcare facilities as vaccination sites in the anti-coronavirus inoculation drive which would be monitored by the Union health ministry's digital platform and would involve sending SMSes and generating a QR code after each jab to track the beneficiaries.

According to a blueprint deliberated upon by an expert group, state governments would identify buildings which can be used as vaccination booths under the special COVID-19 immunisation programme that would run parallel to the existing Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).

"The vaccination sites will not be limited to just healthcare facilities. Such centres would also be set up in anganwadi centres, schools, panchayat buildings and other such setups as identified by state governments," a source said.

The health ministry's existing digital platform eVIN which is being used for the UIP is being enhanced for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and delivery, through which SMSes would be sent to recipients informing the time, date and venue to get the shots and digitally connect them and also track them, the source said.

Each person in the immunisation list would be linked with their Aadhaar cards to avoid duplication and to track beneficiaries.

However, in case a person doesn't have an Aadhaar card, a government photo identity can be used, sources said.

The Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) system provides real-time information on vaccine stocks and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in the country under the UIP.

The prime minister, during a review meeting last month, had suggested making use of the experience of the successful conduct of elections and disaster management, for developing the vaccine delivery and distribution system, involving the participation of states/UTs/district-level functionaries, civil society organisations, volunteers, citizens, and experts from all necessary domains.

The Coronavirus vaccine, once available, would be distributed under a special COVID-19 inoculation programme, using the processes, technology and network of the existing UIP, official sources had said earlier.

According to them, the Centre will procure the vaccine directly to make it available to the priority groups through the existing network of states and districts.

The vaccine is being planned to be administered to the priority groups free-of-cost.

States have been asked not to chart separate pathways of procurement, they said.

The Centre, with the help of state and UT governments, has started the process of identifying around 30 crore priority beneficiaries who would be given the vaccine dose in the initial phase.

The government has demarcated four categories which include around 1 crore healthcare professionals including doctors, MBBS students, nurses and ASHA workers etc, around two crore frontline workers, including municipal corporation workers, personnel of the police and armed forces, about 26 crore people aged above 50 and a special category of those below 50 with co-morbidities and requiring specialised care.

States have been asked to enlist by mid-November the priority population groups to receive the vaccine.

The National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 has already mapped the existing cold chain presently being utilised under the government's immunisation programme and has also made a projection of the additionality that will be required.

Presently facilities of cold chain in over 28,000 locations are being used under the UIP.

Presently the group is engaged with mapping the private sector facilities for augmenting the capacity.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said in October that the Centre estimates to receive and utilise 40-50 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine covering 20-25 crore people by July next year.

Stating COVID-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included "sequentially starting from health care workers", the health ministry has sought constitution of committees at the state and district level which will review preparatory activities in terms of cold chain preparedness, operational planning, strategies for state-specific challenges in terms of geographical terrain and hard to reach areas etc.

The ministry has suggested setting up of a state steering committee (SSC) chaired by the chief secretary, a state task force (STF) led by Additional Chief Secretary or principal secretary (health), and a district task force (DTF) to be headed by the district magistrate.

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