COVID-19 vaccine will be free across country; dry run to start in all states

A dry run for COVID-19 vaccination will start from Saturday (January 2) in all states across India in 116 districts and 259 sites. The dry run is a mock drill that will test the efficiency of the healthcare workers, internet connectivity, electricity, logistical arrangement, safety, and to identify other challenges that may come up. In each capital, the dry run will be conducted in a minimum of 3 session sites.

This latest drill is the second dry run that is being conducted, while the first one was conducted last year on December 28 and 29 in the states of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and Punjab. According to the health ministry, around 96,000 vaccinators have been trained out of which around 2,360 participants have been trained in the National Training of Trainers and over 57,000 participants have been trained in district-level training in 719 districts.

The dry run will have 25 test beneficiaries as healthcare workers who will receive dummy vaccines at each spot. This is to prepare for better management if there are any adverse events following the vaccination and to reveal if there are any loopholes in the vaccination program.

The healthcare workers must also collect and enter the data in the Co-WIN app, short for Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network, which is a digital platform that will help in the rolling out and scaling up the vaccination drive. The dry run being held in multiple cities will also put to test the operational feasibility of the app. 

The subject expert committee met on January 1, 2020, on the subject of the authorization of the emergency use vaccines – ‘Covishield’ by Indian Institute of Serum and ‘Covaxin’ by Bharat Biotech. According to reports, the dry run is being held post the recommended approval of the ‘Covishield’ to the regulator of the Drugs Control Authority of India after the meet. ‘

Both companies have submitted additional data and information about the Phase 3 trials. With the target of 26,000, Bharat Biotech has completed Phase 3 trials in more than 13,000 volunteers.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said, “During this entire drive, we have done massive preparations… just like we do during elections”. When asked about the cost and the availability of the vaccine, he said that the vaccine is being covered by the government and will be free for all. A similar reply was given by AIIMS director Dr. Randeep Guleria who told NDTV, “Currently, the vaccine cost is supported by the government, so this will be something which will be done as part of government initiative as any other vaccine programme, I don’t think it’s going to cost anything”. 

The health minister also asked the officials to follow the checklist and the standard operating procedure prepared by the health ministry of India to guide them in the dry run in all the states and the vaccination sites.

The vaccines will go through further analysis and final approval is still required in order to mass-produce the vaccines. The mass production will likely begin in the first week of January 2021.

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