The Centre has asked states to constitute committees for coordination and overseeing COVID-19 vaccination drive while ensuring minimal disruptions in other routine healthcare services, and stressed early tracking of social media to dispel rumours which could impact the community acceptance of coronavirus inoculation.
Stating that 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 state and district levels 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.
In a letter to states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan 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.
An annexure attached with the letter outlines the terms of references for the committees according to which the SSC will ensure active involvement of all departments concerned and devise innovative strategies for improving community engagement ('Jan Bhagidaari') for improved coverage of COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"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,” it said.
The SSC will also have to institute a reward/recognition mechanism for achievement of best performing district/block/urban ward, etc.
"The COVID-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included sequentially starting from 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 issued on October 26 stated.
The activities to be conducted by the STF 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.
Activities also include planning and mapping of vaccination sessions where HCWs will be vaccinated during the 1st 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 STF will also track districts for adherence to timelines for overall implementation of vaccine introduction.
The DTF will monitor progress of database of beneficiaries on COVID-19 vaccination, ensure training of all concerned HR 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 DTF 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 terms of references mention that SSC should meet at least once a month, STF once a fortnight, and DTF once a week.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.