A day after the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) approved restricted emergency use of two vaccines, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting on Monday to discuss the distribution and logistics of the Covid-19 vaccination process.
“Currently, the DCGI has only approved two vaccines of Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India. We expect that it will take at least 14 days for the Central government to begin vaccine distribution to the states. The process of paperwork, stocking up and distribution will take another 7-10 days.” said Dr Pradeep Vyas, health secretary in the Maharashtra government.
State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that they are yet to hear from the Centre regarding how many doses will be distributed to each state. For the first phase of the immunisation, the Maharashtra government has uploaded the data of 7.22 lakh healthcare workers (HCW), including doctors, nurses, paramedics, accredited social health activist (ASHA) workers and auxiliary nurse midwives, to be vaccinated.
Officials said that the Centre will supply the initial stock for health workers free of cost. “But we have no clarity on whether the state has to subsequently pay for doses in the next phase,” Tope said, adding that they are waiting to hear from the Centre.
Currently, states are not permitted to directly buy Covid vaccines from manufacturers. The public health department expects the Centre to send vaccine vials in batches.
In the meeting on Monday, different modalities of distribution were discussed. The state health department has also proposed to roll out vaccination in rural areas, where a large population still remains unexposed to the virus, and only later scale it up to urban centres where a significant population has already been exposed and developed immunity. Health officials said that another method of distribution is to give some supply to all 36 districts to vaccinate HCW registered with them.
In December, districts such as Sindhudurg, Sangli, Kolhapur, Nashik, Dhule, Buldhana, Nandurbar and Nagpur have shown a spike in cases. Rural regions in these districts are likely to be more vulnerable in the event of a surge, rather than districts like Mumbai, Thane, and Pune where a significant population has already developed antibodies against the viral infection.
Director of the Maharashtra State Family Welfare, Dr Archana Patil said they have trained 16,000 health workers for vaccination so far.
“We have 4,000 cold-chain points and are in the process of preparing vaccination centres at district and primary health centre levels. The decision on how to roll out the vaccination, whether to do it in the urban-rural pockets or in all districts, will be taken immediately once we know how many doses are in line for us this month,” she said.
Patil added that they plan on setting up vaccination centres in areas where there is good network to allow for registration on online software ‘Co-WIN’ with ease. Some health workers from remote areas with poor networks may have to travel long distances to get their immunisation shots.