Cold storage testing to managing crowd: Centre’s trial run ahead of Covid-19 vaccine rollout

Eight districts in four states of Punjab, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat have been chosen by the Centre to assess the readiness of the mechanism laid out for the vaccination drive against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The two-day dry run will be held on December 28 and 29, officials have said.

“The dry run is being conducted to mobilise all elements involved in Covid-19 vaccination drive that is planned for next year to test the vaccine delivery machinery. All elements except for the vaccine will be mobilised,” a senior official in the Union ministry of health and family welfare said requesting anonymity.

According to officials, five sites in each of the two districts in a state are likely to be established for the purpose of vaccinating beneficiaries. “Two districts each from all these four states have been identified where this dry run will be conducted simultaneously on these two days,” another health ministry official, who too did not want to be named, said.

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The health ministry has prepared a detailed checklist and shared it with the four states to guide them in the dry run. “The central government is gearing up for the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccine across the country. As the vaccine administrators will play an important role in the immunisation process, training of trainers and those who shall administer the vaccine has been taken up across various states,” the ministry said.

Here is what you need to know about the dry run:

1. The exercise will include necessary data entry in Co-WIN, an online platform for monitoring of vaccine delivery, testing receipt and allocation, deployment of team members, mock drill of session sites with test beneficiaries, a well as reporting and evening meeting, according to the Union health ministry.

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2. The health ministry has said it will also include testing of cold storage and transportation arrangements for Covid-19 vaccine, management of crowd at session sites with proper physical distancing.

3. Each state will plan it in two districts and preferably in five different session-type settings — district hospital, community health centre (CHC) or primary health care centre (PHC), urban site, private health facility and rural outreach.

4. “This exercise will enable end-to-end mobilisation and testing of Covid-19 vaccination process (except the vaccine) and check the usage of Co-WIN in a field environment, linkages between planning, implementation and reporting mechanisms, identify challenges and guide the way forward prior to actual implementation including improvements that may be required in the envisaged process,” the health ministry said.

5. Special focus will be to check how possible adverse events following immunisation will be dealt with as each session site will have a designated health care facility linked to it to treat people who may develop any discomfort or uneasiness post-vaccination. It will also focus on how infection control practices will be adhered to during vaccination at the session site so that it doesn’t become ground for disease transmission.

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6. This will also provide a hands-on experience to programme managers at various levels. An important focus of the dry run will be on the management of any possible adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) as well as on adherence and management of infection control practices at the session site to prevent disease transmission.

7. The mock drill will include concurrent monitoring and review at block and district levels, and preparation of feedback to be shared with the state and the Centre.

8. Specific training modules have been drafted for medical officers, vaccinators, alternate vaccinators, cold chain handlers, supervisors, data managers, ASHA coordinators and all others involved in the implementation process at different levels.

9. The training includes all operational aspects like the organisation of vaccination sessions, use of Co-WIN IT platform for the management of the entire vaccination process, deployment of HR cold chain preparedness, management of adverse events,  communications and intersectoral coordination, biomedical waste management, infection prevention protocols among others.

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10. As many as 2,360 participants were trained during a national-level training of trainers, which comprised state immunisation officers, cold chain officers, information, education and communication officials and development partners. Training has been completed at all states and Union territories with the participation of more than 7,000 district level trainees, except Lakshadweep which will conduct it on December 29. Also, 681 districts have completed the training of medical officers on operational guidelines, the ministry said.

11. To facilitate redressal of queries on Covid-19 vaccination and Co-WIN portal, national and state helpline capacity has also been strengthened. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration of Covid-19 (NEGVAC) has recommended three prioritised population groups including, healthcare workers, frontline workers, and prioritised age group.

(With agency inputs)

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