India completes full dry run for massive vaccination drive
New Delhi/Chennai: As India came closer to the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccine, a dry run was held by all states and Union Territories on Saturday in preparation for a massive inoculation drive, with Health minister Harsh Vardhan appealing to people not to be misguided by "rumours" and disinformation regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
Vardhan said free vaccine would be provided in the first phase to the most prioritised beneficiaries, including one crore healthcare and two crore frontline workers. He said the details of how 27 crore priority beneficiaries — those above 50 years of age and those below it having comorbidities — would be vaccinated until July were being finalised.
In the national Capital, where the dry run was held at three sites, Delhi Health minister Satyendar Jain said free Coronavirus vaccine will be provided to the people in the city. Interacting with reporters during a visit to a facility in Daryaganj, he said the system "seems flawless" as of now.
The dry run involved 286 session sites spread across 125 districts. India has reported 1.03 crore COVID-19 cases so far and the exercise was held on a day an expert panel of the central drug authority recommended granting permission for restricted emergency use of the indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, with certain conditions, after giving similar direction for the Oxford vaccine Covishield.
"The states and UTs have expressed complete satisfaction on the successful conduct of the dry run which included the operational process and its linkages with the Co-WIN Software," the Union Health ministry said in a statement.
More than 75 lakh beneficiaries have been registered on Co-WIN software which has been developed by the health ministry for real-time information of vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individualized tracking of beneficiaries for COVID-19 vaccine, according to the statement.
Besides state capitals, some states also included districts that are situated in difficult terrain or have poor logistical support in the exercise, officials said.
Maharashtra, Kerala and Gujarat conducted the mock drill in four districts each, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in five districts each while Rajasthan carried out the dry-run in seven districts.
The first dry run was conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Punjab on December 28-29 with at least 125 intended beneficiaries at five sites in a maximum of two districts each.
Specific teams were formed for various tasks conducted on Saturday's rehearsal by the district administrations and activities like uploading of dummy beneficiary data, session site creation, vaccine allocation, communicating vaccination details to beneficiaries and vaccinators, and beneficiary mobilisation, etc were carried out.
"I appeal to the people not to be misguided by rumours regarding safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine. We will not compromise on any protocol before approving a vaccine," Vardhan said, underlining that vaccine hesitancy was an issue even when the country started the polio immunisation drive, but "we must remember its success".