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Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Union Health Ministry  (ANI Photo)
Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Union Health Ministry (ANI Photo)

Coordinate mechanism for preparatory activities of vaccine: Centre to states

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter, has advised setting up committees to review preparatory activities

Amidst plans of Covid-19 vaccination drive to be undertaken early next year, the central government has written to states asking them form committees for streamlining the process and increase acceptance of the vaccine among communities.

Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, in a letter written to the states and union territories has advised setting up committees to review preparatory activities in terms of cold chain preparedness, operational planning, strategies for state-specific challenges for geographical terrains and hard-to-reach areas.

Bhushan in the letter has said that the states should constitute 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.

The centre has also given the terms of references for the committees. The union health ministry has suggested that the state steering committee should ensure active involvement of all departments concerned and devise innovative strategies for improving Jan Bhagidaari (community engagement) for improved coverage of Covid-19 vaccine once it is available. The state steering committee will also have to institute a reward/recognition mechanism for achievement of best performing district/block/urban ward, etc.

"Ensure early tracking of social media and other platforms for possible misinformation and rumours around Covid-19 vaccine that could impact the community acceptance for the vaccine," the letter dated October 26 stated.

"The Covid-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included sequentially starting from healthcare workers (HCWs). Therefore, it is important to create strong advisory and coordination mechanism at state and district level to guide the process of Covid-19 vaccine introduction while ensuring minimal disruption of other routine health care services including immunisation," the letter said.

The activities to be conducted by the state task force includes providing guidance, including funding and operational guidelines, fixing timelines for districts to plan and implement Covid-19 vaccine introduction whenever a vaccine is made available and identifying vaccinators across government and private sectors so as to minimise disruption of routine immunisation services, the terms of reference said.

Activities also include planning and mapping of vaccination sessions where HCWs will be vaccinated during the first phase and mapping human resources across departments that could be deployed for vaccination sessions for verification of beneficiaries, crowd management and overall coordination at the session site and the state task force will also track districts for adherence to timelines for overall implementation of vaccine introduction, the letter said.

According to the terms of reference, district task force will monitor progress of database of beneficiaries on Covid-19 vaccination, ensure training of all concerned human resources on Covid-19 vaccination Beneficiary Management system (CVBMS), monitor progress on key activities such as microplanning, communication planning, cold chain and vaccine logistics planning. Accountability to be fixed for each activity at all levels.

The district task force will develop a robust communication planning at all levels to "address rumour mongering as well as vaccine eagerness", track blocks and urban areas for adherence to timelines for various activities required for introduction of Covid-19 vaccine, besides ensuring timely disbursal of funds at all levels and sharing feedback at state level for review, the letter said adding that the state steering committee should meet at least once a month, state task force once a fortnight, and district task force once a week.

As the country awaits an effective Covid-19 vaccine, the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise. The total tally of cases on Friday reached 80, 89, 593 and the toll touched 1,21,706. However, the active caseload has fallen below 6 lakh for the first time in nearly three months (85 days) with 5.94 lakh active as on Friday. The active caseload was 5.95 lakh on 6th August. Presently the active cases comprise only 7.35% of the total positive cases of the country standing at 5,94,386. At least 48,648 new confirmed cases were recorded in the last 24 hours.

“At least 78% of these are from 10 States and UTs. Kerala is still reporting a very high number of new cases with more than 7,000 cases followed by Maharashtra and Delhi with more than 5,000 cases each," the union health ministry said. “Around 563 case fatalities have been reported in the past 24 hours. Of these, 81% are concentrated in ten States/UTs, the government said that Maharashtra has reported the highest single day deaths (156 deaths) followed by West Bengal with 61 cases," it said.

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