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Bengal begins preparing for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The West Bengal government has already started preparing for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, when it becomes available, by enlisting names of the priority recipients.

The West Bengal government has already started preparing for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, when it becomes available, by enlisting names of the priority recipients.

The state health department has received over 25,000 names of doctors, health workers, police personnel and other frontline warriors from various districts for inclusion in the list of priority recipients.

Health department sources said more names will be included in the list as most state-run and private medical establishments are yet to send details of frontline healthcare workers who would be administered the vaccine on a priority basis as and when the antidote hits the stand.

“Names of around 4,500 doctors, medical students, professors, nurses and other health workers have been sent from our institution,” said a senior doctor of the Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital.

Another premier health institution of Kolkata, Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital submitted a list of around 5,000 front line COVID warriors for priority vaccination. Similar lists are coming in from other health facilities of the state.

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The Union health ministry had earlier asked all the states and Union Territories to prepare the priority list. Accordingly, the state health department had notified all the state-run as well as private health facilities to fill up excel forms with names and other details such as age and comorbidity, if any, of frontline health workers.

The state’s priority list is expected to be ready by mid-November though the Centre had set a target of October 31 for completion of the list, according to health department sources.

Apart from doctors and nurses, laboratory technicians, ward boys, pharmacists, psychotherapists, ASHA workers, medical students, hospital support staff, administrative employees, police personnel and security staff deployed in hospitals and cleaners will be given priority for vaccination, officials of the health department said.

“The health ministry wanted to include all frontline health workers in the priority lists, but we in the state are for giving priority to all frontline Covid warriors, including the police and sanitation workers,” said an official of the department.

The list is being prepared as per the guidelines of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), formed by the health ministry. Mission Director of the National Health Mission Saumitra Mohan will be the nodal officer for coordination of the entire process.

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Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan stated last month that the Centre plans to provide COVID vaccines to around 25 crore people by July next year even as there are multiple vaccine candidates for COVID-19 in the final stages of trial.

The government expects that the vaccine will be available in the market by early next year. Administering the vaccine to the country’s 130 crore people will be a huge logistical challenge. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter to states and Union Territories suggested forming of a state steering committee chaired by the chief secretary, a state task force headed by an additional chief secretary-level officer, and a district task force headed by district magistrate.

The committees will coordinate, oversee and implement vaccine roll-out plans and review logistic facilities such as availability of cold chains for storage of antidotes, besides devising ideas for community engagement in the vaccination drive to be carried out in phases, officials said.

“Apart from health facilities, even schools and other such centres might be used for setting up vaccination booths,” according to the health department official.

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