India on Saturday staged nationwide drills to start one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes as the drug regulator prepared to approve the first vaccine.
A government panel on Friday recommended emergency use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot and the first injections could be given in the coming week after the Drugs Control Authority of India gives final approval.
India, which has the world’s second highest number of pandemic cases — more than 10.2 million — has set an ambitious target of inoculating 300 million of its 1.3 billion people by mid-2021.
The activity was conducted by all state and union territory administrations on January 2 to test the linkages between planning and implementation and to identify the challenges, the Centre had said on Thursday.
Three sites across the national capital were selected, while seven districts shortlisted in Chhattisgarh.
District hospital, community health centres (CHCs) and primary health centres (PHCs) were selected as centres for the exercise which will start from 10 am onwards.
A video conference was held under the chairmanship of the Delhi health secretary on Friday for conducting a dry run for COVID vaccination at three selected sites, one each in Central District, Shahdara District and South West district, according to the latest health bulletin.
From installing freezers to setting up cold chain equipment, arrangements are being made at a Delhi government hospital here for storing the vaccine, whenever it arrives.
The Delhi government is fully prepared to receive, store and administer COVID-19 vaccine to 51 lakh priority category persons in the city in the first phase of vaccination, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said on December 24.
These people include healthcare workers, frontline workers, people aged above 50 and those below 50 years but with co-morbidities.
Once the vaccine is available, 2.53 lakh health care personnel will be administered it in the first phase of roll out.
In Pune, a total of 17 registered beneficiaries underwent the mock drill at three health care centres in Pune city, Pune rural and Pimpri Chinchwad.
The Punjab government conducted the drive in Patiala on January 2 and 3.
The first dry run in Gujarat was successfully held on December 28 and 29. The new dry run was conducted in the districts of Dahod, Bhavnagar, Valsad and Anand, said state Commissioner of Health Jai Prakash Shivahare.
Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine producer, has already stockpiled tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield ready for the campaign and 96,000 health workers have been trained for the inoculation drive.
Health minister Harsh Vardhan said the exercise would help build expertise “so that the upcoming vaccination drive may proceed without any glitch.” He has also called for a campaign to counter “misleading rumours” that may scare people off getting the vaccine.
(with inputs from agencies)
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