Power to Rail, Defence to Education — all gears move for vaccine rollout


As many as 20 Ministries, from Power to Railways, Defence and Labour to Civil Aviation and over two dozen state-level departments, from police to education: an unprecedented official machinery is being cranked up for the Centre’s Covid-19 vaccine distribution effort.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Chief Ministers Monday to discuss the rollout, this pan-government mobilisation is comparable to the preparation ahead of a general election.

The Union Power Ministry has been instructed to coordinate with state discoms to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply at vaccine storage points and session sites. The Railways, which is to conduct vaccination sessions at its hospitals, dispensaries and other premises, will do “vaccine branding” on railway tickets while the Labour Ministry will conduct vaccination sessions across its Employee’s State Insurance network of hospitals and staff.

The Defence Ministry will help coordinate vaccine supply in inaccessible and security-sensitive areas and tap into its formidable ex-servicemen network for social mobilisation.

“The Civil Aviation Ministry has had several discussions with stakeholders including airlines, airports, (and) ground handling companies… Main requirement is temperature regulation,” said an official. And aviation regulator DGCA Friday issued guidelines to aircraft operators on the transport of vaccines packed in dry ice.

The Ministry of Information and Technology has been asked to use its village-level Common Service Centres for vaccine registrations and get mobile service providers to send text and voice messages, caller tunes on vaccination and message on telephone bills.

In parallel, states are gearing up. Several state government units, including the Public Works Departments (PWD), Education and the police, have been assigned specific tasks in the vaccine value chain. Common Standard Operating Procedures which include individual checklists have been issued, sources said.

State PWDs will support the identification of session sites and ensure logistics and drinking water; police departments are being roped in to provide security to vaccine consignments during storage and shipment and help in site and crowd management.

Trucks enter the Serum Institute of India premises in Pune on Saturday morning. (Express photo by Pavan Khengre)

The Education departments are being tapped for deployment at session sites, including working as team members and for spreading awareness through school teachers and shiksha mitra, alongside educating parents on why children are not being vaccinated in the initial phase.

The Panchayati Raj apparatus will ensure registration of health care workers under the zila parishads and panchayat, identification and planning for the vaccination site and in organising vaccination sessions.

“There has been stockpiling by companies (that have received emergency use approval), and they have been in constant dialogue with the government,” said the official. “Four-five days are more than enough (for the vaccines to be shipped across the country to different states).”

The government said it will be able to initiate Covid-19 inoculations within 10 days of a vaccine receiving emergency approval, making it likely that January 13 may be when it is rolled out.

At least 70 lakh healthcare workers are planned to be vaccinated in the first tranche of the first phase of Covid-19 vaccination of priority groups over the course of the next three months, Niti Aayog Member-Health and chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) V K Paul had told The Indian Express.

Sub-centres, community health centres, health and wellness centres, district hospitals and private hospitals will be session sites for healthcare workers, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on January 5.

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