Covid-19: Won’t compromise on any protocol in vaccine approval, says Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan

By: |
January 2, 2021 8:46 PM

The minister, who visited two mock vaccination sites in Delhi to review the drill, said free vaccines would be provided in the first phase of the inoculation drive to the most prioritised beneficiaries, including one crore healthcare and two crore frontline workers.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Covid vaccinationUnion Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said details were being finalised about how 27 crore priority beneficiaries -- those above 50 years of age and those below it having comorbidities -- would be vaccinated until July.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan appealed to people on Saturday not to be misguided by “rumours” regarding the safety and efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine, and said the most prioritised beneficiaries would be vaccinated for free.

Vardhan stressed that there would be no compromise on any protocol while approving the vaccine.

The minister, who visited two mock vaccination sites in Delhi to review the drill, said free vaccines would be provided in the first phase of the inoculation drive to the most prioritised beneficiaries, including one crore healthcare and two crore frontline workers.

He added that details were being finalised about how 27 crore priority beneficiaries — those above 50 years of age and those below it having comorbidities — would be vaccinated until July.

The minister dispelled doubts regarding the country’s capability to undertake such a massive vaccination drive, describing how India had unparalleled experience in dealing with immunisation and runs one of the largest such programmes in the world.

The comments come on a day Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav termed the COVID-19 immunisation a “vaccine of the BJP” and said he would not take the shot.

“How can I trust the vaccine, which will be used for vaccination by the BJP? We cannot get vaccinated by the BJP’s vaccine,” Yadav told reporters in Lucknow.

Separately, at a press conference in New Delhi, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said India was probably the only country where four vaccines were in the pipeline.

One of them was given the approval on Friday for emergency use, Javadekar said, in an apparent reference to recommendation by an expert panel of India’s central drug authority for granting permission for restricted emergency use of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield, being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

Asked about some religious figures raising doubts over vaccines, Javadekar said “our vaccine is effective” and the rest of the world was also using it. He added that vaccines are introduced after tests and those that would be brought in would be safe.

Earlier, Vardhan first visited the GTB Hospital at Shahdara in Delhi and later an urban primary health centre (UPHC) in Daryaganj, according to a Health Ministry statement.

“It is as a result of our steadfastness and dedication that India was declared polio-free in 2014. Our rich learning from the earlier immunisation drives, including the polio vaccination campaign, is being used to guide our present countrywide COVID-19 vaccination campaign,” he said.

“I appeal to the people not to be misguided by rumours regarding safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine,” he said, dismissing such buzz on social media over its side effects. “We will not compromise on any protocol before approving a vaccine.”

The health minister underlined that vaccine hesitancy was an issue even when the country started polio immunisation drive, but “we must remember its success”. He urged the media to exercise caution, behave “responsibly” and check all facts before publishing or broadcasting any reports, the ministry said.

At the UPHC in Daryaganj, Vardhan reiterated that the Modi government was committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all citizens.

“I have ample personal experience from the polio eradication campaign of 1994 about how the people of the country placed their trust in the science of the vaccine rather than the falsehoods and canards being spread by some rumour-mongers,” Vardhan told the media.

On ensuring that the vaccine reaches the remotest corner, Vardhan said the country’s cold chain infrastructure had been sufficiently upgraded to ensure last-mile delivery, and adequate supplies of syringes and other logistics had also been provided for.

Vardhan said the entire exercise of the vaccination process, including training of personnel, was being systematically taken forward.

“Detailed guidelines have been issued to multiple stakeholders after extensive deliberations, paying attention to each and every minute aspect,” he said.

“Ahead of the actual vaccination drive, the Ministry of Health on Saturday conducted a nationwide mock drill at 285 session sites to test the end-to-end planned operations and the mechanism that has been set up to ensure smooth conduct of the COVID-19 vaccination that is expected to begin soon,” it said.

Vardhan appreciated the tireless efforts being made by multiple stakeholders, including the central and state government officials who have worked proactively in the last few months to ensure the success of this humongous operation.

He said the digital platform, Co-WIN, was the real game-changer and would provide real-time information of vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This unique platform will assist in automated session allocation for pre-registered beneficiaries, their verification and for generating a digital certificate upon successful completion of the vaccine schedule, he said.

The minister said the entire operational planning and IT platform had been field-tested in four states.

The dry run will end with review meetings at the district and state level to discuss the issues and challenges encountered during the exercise. States and Union territories have been requested to share with the Health Ministry the feedback, which will be analysed for ironing out any glitches in the final execution and refinement of the operational procedures.

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