New Delhi: After the first massive dry run held earlier this month on January 2, states across India are holding a second massive dry run today. In this dry-run cold storage will be assessed along with-it transportation arrangements and management of possible side effects from the vaccine. The mock-drill will be done at various vaccination sites today to check the overall preparedness of the COVID-19 vaccination roll out in the coming days. NDTV speaks with experts to understand more details of this mega dry run drive:
NDTV: How crucial is the COVID vaccine dry-run exercise for India?
Dr Anita Ramesh Chandra, Clinical Trial Specialist, Apollo Hospital: The dry-runs are very-very crucial for India, especially the one that is happening today (January 8) as it is happening in more than 70 districts. It is these dry-runs that will only help us in implementing the massive vaccination programme in the coming weeks. Currently, India has two vaccines for protecting against coronavirus – Oxford Institute’s COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, which is being developed by the Pune-based Serum Institute, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Today’s dry-run will oversee very important things – one to see how our vaccination sites are prepared with the healthcare professionals and secondly how smoothly the transportation is done for the vaccine from the manufacturing units to the cold-storage areas deployed across states and then finally to the vaccination sites. The dry-run will see whether our healthcare professionals are trained to give the vaccination and manage side-effects and lastly how to use the Co-WIN digital software for the whole immunisation drive.
NDTV: The vaccine administered during dry-runs is the dummy vaccine, so how do we actually gear up for adverse event falling immunisation?
Dr Anish Sinha, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health: The whole idea of the dry-run is to ensure actual smooth implementation of the vaccination drive when it happens as a lot of planning has gone into this. Via these dry-runs the government wants to be absolutely sure that all the planning process is in line with the actual implementation and all the linkages are well covered between the planning and implementation on-ground.
Talking about the adverse event falling after immunisation, basically, other than the vaccine administration, everything on site will be same and exact as the actual vaccination site. Vaccines will not be administered to the person as such, however all the other things will be mimicked and so there will not be actual adverse event taking place, but it will be mocked to see how rapid is the response of our healthcare workers, how smoothly the transportation of the patient is done from the site to the hospital. Our sites will be prepared with adverse event falling after immunisation kits with the drugs and the drill will oversee how the professional reacts to the situation on the spot with all the things and facilities available.
NDTV: Issues related to space were found in the first dry-runs which was highlighted by Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan recently. What do we know about this challenge so far and should India we worried?
Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad: Normally the vaccination sites or booths are standardised. I don’t think that this will be a bigger challenge for us. In India, we do have a lot of experience of handling vaccination of large scale, we also do elections in every 4-5 years with large number of people coming out, and we have managed all these things in past smoothly. And keeping the past experiences in mind, we have planned the COVID vaccination drive as well.
NDTV: Have we seen this type of dry-runs for COVID vaccine in other countries?
Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad: No, we haven’t come across any such news from any other countries and that’s why I think, the USA and UK, where the vaccination drive has begun are having so much of confusion and problems. In terms of vaccination, India is far ahead of other countries, we are the sitting example of how to carry a vaccination drive in such a large number.
One of the other important things India has added in this whole vaccination drive is the data entry, creating the data base and retrieval of the data to follow up the people as these are the emergency use vaccine and are not approved vaccine. So, very careful monitoring and follow up of patient is extremely important and this is what that will add value to the vaccination process in this pandemic. Overall, this process will have tremendous benefit for our country for now and in future.
NDTV: Possible risks that the vaccination sites can face?
Dr Hemant Thacker, Specialist, Cardio Metabolic: As doctors, we all should be prepared for the worst of worst scenarios and as patients we all should be optimistic that there will be hardly any reactions. And to prepare ourself for all the worst scenarios, India is doing all these dry-runs which will finally help us in smooth implementation of the vaccination programme.
NDTV: Will the digital infrastructure created for roll out of COVID vaccine be a problem in India’s rural areas?
Dr Anita Ramesh Chandra, Clinical Trial Specialist, Apollo Hospital: Yes, this might cause a problem for people living in rural parts of India as many of them may not be having the android mobile that supports the app and secondly even if there is mobile, there are chances many of the people living in those areas might not know how to use the app. So, if we want to take this process digitally in the rural India, we need resources there, some IT professionals who can get the things done on-ground. So, this is one of the biggest hurdles, we have to face as far as rural India is concerned.
Dr Anish Sinha, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health: Of course, this will be a challenge in rural India, but we need to look at this point that the CoWIN app is the upgraded version of e-VIN – Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network, which was there at all the 29000 cold storage points spread across the country and by far all the people have been trained to use this app. Yes, there will be network issues, but special training has been imparted to many of the professionals in-ground to take this forward.
NDTV: How important will be the transportation part from the storage point to the centre for Vaccines?
Dr Anish Sinha, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health: Already in India, we have a system in place for routine immunisation vaccines from the manufacturers to states vaccine stores then through flights or refrigerated vans and then from regional state to districts. So, this system is in place for all the vaccines we have used in past and same method is being applied for COVID-Vaccine drive. The only thing we will need to manage in this vaccine drive is the way it is being transported, the box needs to be properly closed and it is mandatory to have four ice-packs so that the temperature is maintained while the vaccine is being transported from one point to another.
As per the Health Ministry, around 1.7 lakh vaccinators and 3 lakh vaccination team members have been trained on the process to be followed at the vaccination sites which include beneficiary verification, vaccination, cold chain and logistics management, bio-medical waste management, AEFI (Adverse event following immunization) management, and reporting on Co-WIN software. The first dry run of the vaccination drive was held in states- Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Assam on December 28 and 29, 2020. The second dry-run was done nationwide on January 2, 2021, covering 125 districts in all States/UTs. Today (January 8), is the third dry-run which is happening in more than 700 districts of India.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.