The Karnataka government has identified 94,000 frontline healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff in both private and public hospitals, as those who will get priority when a COVID-19 vaccine is administered as and when it’s ready.
The list includes 8,000 health workers from government hospitals, about 10,000-12,000 private healthcare workers, 1,500 Anganwadi workers and other paramedical staff and medical college students. The government will later involve them in the distribution (administering) of vaccines.
The state is in the process of digitising the records of these healthcare workers so that the vaccine distribution is tracked end-to-end. For those registering, the government will also send a message on their mobile devices and issue digital certificates once the vaccine shots are given.
Officials are not clear which vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sputnik V among others, all in advanced later stages of human trials) will be ready to be administered first. But they are preparing for the required infrastructure in advance so that the distribution becomes faster.
For now, the government has identifed Dasappa Hospital in Bengaluru as the main storage centre with a mass cold storage facility. The vaccine will first be stored at Dasappa Hospital before being taken to other centres.
Foreseeing a shortage of space and infrastructure in public hospitals, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP, the municipal corporation of Bengaluru) and the health department have formed a committee to identify other centres and submit a report by November 25.
“Besides Dasappa Hospital, some of the big private hospitals and Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences’ University are likely to be the main storage centres. The health committee will identify the suitable places and submit a report next week,” BBMP’s chief medical officer B K Vijendra said.
Experts said that the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech vaccine, which the companies have claimed has been found during phase-3 trials to be 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, may not be in mass use in India as it requires to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius or below. Other vaccines are required to be stored in the temperature range of 2-20 degree Celsius.
In rural areas, the primary healthcare centres (PHCs) and community health centres (CHCs) will be the storage and distribution centres.
The government is in the process of recruiting vaccine cold chain managers at the district level who shall be responsible for programme planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting for all cold chain projects. They will also be analysing the consumption pattern, monitor wastage rates and generate monthly reports so that the supply and distribution are managed well.
“Besides health staff, we have permission to engage medical and nursing college students and lab technicians also in the distribution process. So, the government is digitising all their information so that the entire supply chain is tracked and monitored for better distribution,” Dr Om Prakash Patil, director, Directorate of Health & Family Welfare Services said.
The electronic vaccine intelligent network (eVIN) already rolled out to monitor the status of other stored vaccines in hospitals across the state will be used for COVID vaccine also.
Speaking at a CII summit on November 20, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said the entire eVIN platform was being repurposed as COVID network.