In anticipation of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that is just one step away from being approved by India’s top drug regulator, select hospitals across the country conducted an inoculation dry run Saturday. The nationwide rehearsal was to understand the best way to administer the vaccine and plug loopholes in logistics and training. India, which has more than one crore three lakh cases of the infection, will conduct the largest vaccination drive in the world.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan reviewed the process at GTB Hospital in New Delhi Saturday. Speaking to reporters afterward, he said the government would not compromise on any protocol in approving a vaccine, and appealed to people not to be misguided by rumours regarding the safety and efficacy of shots.
The Health Minister also reportedly said Indians would receive the vaccine free of cost. “Not just in Delhi, it will be free across the country,” he told news agency ANI.
The first dry run was held in four states — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Assam — earlier this week. Here’s a look at how the nationwide exercise went:
The process was held in three sites, including GTB in Shahdara, Urban Primary Health Centre in Daryaganj, and Venkateshwar Hospital in Dwarka.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain is scheduled to visit the facility in Daryaganj as part of the exercise as well.
In Kerala, the second phase trial run of the vaccine is being held in four districts — Trivandrum, Idukki, Palakkad and Wayanad.
After overseeing the trial run, state Health Minister K K Shailaja said, “Covishield is a safe vaccine, experts have indicated. During its trial run, there have been no major health concerns or side effects. No one should have any concerns on taking the vaccine. We have prepared a priority list on the basis of ICMR guidelines of people who will get the vaccine first.”
In Tamil Nadu, the dry run is being conducted in five districts — Chennai, Nilgris, Tirunelveli, Poonamalle and Coimbatore. State Health Secretary Dr Radhakrishnan said the process is being conducted with 25 healthcare workers.
Addressing reporters at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital (RGGH) in Chennai, Radhakrishnan said the purpose was to check the various steps of the vaccination process, including the efficiency of the CoWIN app, internet accessibility, and the management of any possible adverse events.
He added that the list of beneficiaries for the dry run was not taken randomly and they are part of the priority list of the healthcare workers the state identified to provide the vaccination.
Meanwhile, state Health Minister C Vijayabaskar Friday said the dry run would help as the government needed to administer the vaccine process carefully, which required proper planning.
A senior official in Assam told news agency PTI the dry run would continue regularly across the state until the actual vaccination began. This is in order to prepare medical staff.
Also, National Health Mission (NHM) Mission Director Lakshmanan S said the Health Department does not want to leave any stone unturned to find out any lacuna in the system before administering the vaccine to the people of the state.
“Today, we are having the dry run at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, Sonapur Civil Hospital and Khanapara State Dispensary. This is going to be a continuous process and we will be having dry runs till the actual vaccine comes to us,” PTI quoted Lakshmanan as saying.
In Bengal, the process is being conducted at three places –– Amdanga, Madhyamgram and Duttabad –– all in North 24 Parganas district.