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Centre starts drawing up plans for vaccine distribution, puts frontline workers on priority

NEW DELHI: Even asBJPpromised free Covid vaccine in election-bound Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, thehealth ministryhas initiated a meticulous exercise ofequitable distributionof vaccine which would first reachfrontline healthcare workers.

The government held a high-level meeting with health departments of all states on Friday to discuss drawing up of priority lists for administering the Covid vaccine, once a vaccine candidate is approved by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Speaking to ET, health minister Harsh Vardhan said, “We are devising a meticulous plan for equitable distribution of Covid vaccine, once it is approved. The states are providing priority lists of healthcare workers who would be vaccinated. We are getting into nitty gritties of distribution, cold storage chains and financing. We are conducting online trainings on how to make priority lists. I have started meetings with state health ministers on two major aspects — Covid appropriate behaviour and necessary groundwork for Covid vaccine. I have held meetings with Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh health ministers. Next meeting would be with Bihar.” The health minister refused to comment on vaccine politics simply saying the government was going by its stated policy.

The ministry initiated the exercise on October 16 and sent detailed guidelines to state chief secretaries to draw up confirmed priority lists. Secretary (health) Rajesh BHushan wrote to the states, “This ministry has started the preparatory activities for introduction of Covid-19vaccines whenever they become available. As part of these efforts, health ministry is preparing a database of healthcare workers, defined as, healthcare service providers and other workers in healthcare settings (both government and private) which may be prioritised for receiving the Covid-19 vaccine…”

The ministry is developing Covid-19 Vaccination Beneficiary Management System (CVBMS). This central database would be final go-to list for vaccination. The ministry has identified UNDP as the coordinating agency for the drive. The detailed guidelines circulated to states, reviewed by ET, lay down that healthcare workers would includeASHAworkers, trained nurses, health supervisors, allopathic and AYUSH doctors, dentists, paramedical staff, students in medical colleges, nursing and paramedical students, AYUSH students, support staff including sanitation workers, ambulance drivers, outsourced cleaning staff, data entry operators, engineers and other health staff working in a facility.

The data would be uploaded with proper government identification, which would include service identity cards, MNREGA job card or PAN or driving licence. One of the factors that would be captured in the priority list would be if the healthcare worker could be a potential vaccinator. The government has identified this area as one of primary concern as it would need trained personnel to administer vaccines. It expects the data of health supervisors, nurses, medical officers and students to clearly reflect if they are trained as vaccinators.


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