New Delhi: The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said it is prepared to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine within about a week, but a final decision on the launch date is yet to be taken. At a press briefing, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said healthcare and frontline workers need not register themselves for the vaccination drive as their database has been uploaded on the Co-WIN vaccine delivery management system in a bulk.
The provision of registration and editing of data would arise while immunising the population priority group, he said. “Based on the feedback from the dry-run of vaccination drive, the health ministry is ready to introduce COVID-19 vaccine within 10 days from the date of emergency use authorisation,” Bhushan said.
However, while responding to a question on the rollout of vaccines, Bhushan said the final decision will be taken by the government.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had on Sunday approved Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country.
NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul said an optimistic scenario is emerging with the pandemic situation in India consistently improving in terms of active cases and new deaths declining.
“Let’s hope this trend will continue. In terms of the new UK mutant issue, this variant has entered this country and 71 people have been isolated. This shows our capacity to mount that kind of a scientific investigation. “Also, we have not seen emergence of any untoward cluster in the country as of now which is reassuring,” he said.
On the two vaccines that have been granted approval for restricted emergency use by the DCGI, Paul reiterated that all scientific and statutory requirements have been met and regulatory norms followed while granting permission and authorisation.
“No vaccine today in any country has got regular authorisation. The world is exercising this option using scientific criteria and thinking to take decision in larger interest of public health and humanity,” he said.
In the context of Covaxin, he said, “We are happy that none of the mutations have challenged the existing vaccines, including the two which got approval in India.”
In the face of potential mutations, as it is a whole virion vaccine and forms antibodies at multiple targets it will be more sturdy. Also, this vaccine is to be used in clinical trial mode, Paul said. “The aim is to have enough vaccines by July to cover at least 30 crore prioritised people,” he said.
As to why Pfizer has not been given a license, Bhushan said the company has been given three opportunities by the subject expert committee of the CDSCO but they have not appeared before it. “The SEC, to the best of our knowledge, is willing to listen to their presentation.
Explaining the existing logistics management involved and to be adopted in the vaccination chain, Bhushan mentioned that the vaccine will be transported under the refrigerated condition and digitally tracked during transit.
Manufacturers transport the vaccines to four primary vaccine stores, Karnal, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. From there, it is transported in bulk to the 37 state vaccine stores for further dissemination.
Department of Biotechnology Secretary Renu Swarup said the vaccines will have to be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius as the logistics have been worked out while considering temperature as a factor.
“There is no need for beneficiary registration of healthcare and frontline workers as their information will be taken from a bulk database that has been populated onto the CO-WIN Vaccine Delivery Management System,” Union health secretary Bhushan said.
“Co-WIN will also give permission to create a Unique Health ID. After administration of both doses, a QR code certificate will also be generated which can be stored on government’s DigiLocker app,” he said.
In case of any adverse effect following immunisation, there is a provision for real-time reporting. Other features include SMS in 12 languages, 24X7 helpline, Chat Bot assistance and others. As of now, more than 90,000 users have been trained in more than 700 districts, the health secretary said.
“CO-WIN Vaccination Management System, which is made in India for the world, is a public health good. The Government of India will proactively help the countries who may want to use it,” Bhushan said.
Giving COVID-19 figures, Bhushan said the average recovered cases exceeded the average daily new cases for the last five weeks. “Daily COVID-19 positivity rate is continuously declining and has been less than 3 per cent from December 23 to January 5,” he said, adding of the total active COVID-19 cases, 43.96 per cent are in healthcare facilities, while 56.04 per cent are very mild or asymptomatic and are in home isolation.
“This indicates that the overall burden on the healthcare structure in the country on account of COVID-19 has declined appreciably”.
India’s cumulative COVID-19 positivity rate has declined to 5.87 per cent. Last week, the positivity rate was recorded at 1.97 per cent. The overall burden on healthcare infrastructure in the country on account of COVID-19 has declined appreciably,” Bhushan added.