The distribution drive would take place over a year. For this, the states and union territories would form a three-tier system as per the Centre’s directions.
“In all likelihood, the Covid-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included sequentially, starting from healthcare workers (HCWs). Therefore, it is important to create strong advisory and coordination mechanism at state and district-level to guide the process of Covid-19 vaccine introduction while ensuring minimal disruption of other routine healthcare services, including immunisation,” the directions forwarded by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan to chief secretaries of states and UTs read.
Earlier, Bhushan had written to chief secretaries of all states and UTs asking them to form three-tier committees which would oversee the rollout of the vaccine and address any hiccups, including rumours.
As per the information gathered, the three-tier committees would comprise the state steering committee, state task force, and district task force in each state and UT.
The state steering committee would be headed by the chief secretary, the state task force would be headed by the principal secretary (health), while the district task force would be led by the district magistrate.
The committees should meet at a minimum frequency of once a month, once a fortnight, and once a week, respectively, the directions added.
The Centre has also laid down a list of activities for the committees for both the preparatory phase and the phase that follows vaccine rollout.
For example, during the preparatory phase, state steering committees will have to review issues such as cold-chain preparedness (to ensure proper transfer of vaccines), operational planning, and communication planning.
They will also have to devise strategies for state-specific challenges that may arise, in terms of geographical terrain, network connectivity, access to hard-to-reach areas etc, besides exploring the availability of corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds for vaccine-related activities.
Once the vaccine is available, the committee’s duties will include tracking social media for misinformation, ensuring active involvement of stakeholders, and undertaking regular reviews of vaccine coverage.
The preparatory-phase responsibilities of the state task force include identifying “vaccinators across government and private sectors so as to minimise disruption of routine immunisation services while introducing Covid-19 vaccine”. They will also have to plan and map sessions for the vaccination of healthcare workers.
Besides, they will have to identify and deploy a work force across departments to verify beneficiaries, manage crowd and for an overall coordination at session sites.
Once the distribution of the vaccine starts, the district task force would work on developing “robust communication planning at all levels to address rumour-mongering as well as vaccine eagerness”.