BENGALURU: A year after SARS-CoV-2 began its rampage across the world, a vaccine against Covid-19 is being launched across India, with over 24,000 health workers in Karnataka to get the jab on January 16, the first day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa will inaugurate the roll out at Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute Superspeciality Hospital at 10.30am.
On Saturday, 24,300 health workers will be vaccinated at 243 sites across Karnataka, and at each site, a Group D employee will be the first to get the jab. “This is being done to honour their work,” said Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey. In all, over 7.17 lakh health care workers will be innoculated in the first phase.
Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said that the state has 8,14,500 doses of vaccine. “If everything goes smoothly, we can complete the first phase in a week. We have sufficient storage facilities and everything is in place and well-planned. Politicians would have been given the vaccine in the first phase, but health workers who are on the frontlines against corona will be given priority. People with comorbidities will be the next priority,” he said.
Sudhakar also sought to assuage fears about side-effects. “Everyone should have hope and confidence in the vaccines. Many fear that they will have a bad reaction, but there is nothing to worry. There might be swelling near the arm, pain in the hand, or a mild fever. This is normal and not a cause of concern. Health staff at the sites will assist beneficiaries,” he said.
Six centres in Ballari, Shivamogga, Hassan, Chikkamagaluru, Chamarajnagar and Davanagere districts will get doses of Covaxin. The remaining 237 centres will get Covishield vaccine doses. “As we have only 20,000 doses of Covaxin, the decision to give it to district hospitals was taken. We will get more Covaxin doses for other phases from the Centre. One need not worry about the vaccine,” said Pankaj Kumar Pandey, Health Commissioner.
However, concerns have been raised over the absence of efficacy data of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Phase 3 trials, which measure efficacy, are still incomplete for Covaxin. Both Oxford University’s Covishield and Covaxin comprise two doses to be taken 28 days apart. However, both doses must be of the same vaccine.
Sudhakar also said that individuals would not be able to choose which vaccine to take. “Both vaccines are equally efficient and safe. One need not worry about the vaccines. Whichever vaccine is allotted to a site will be administered... It is not mandatory to take vaccines, but I appeal to all health workers to come forward to take it. It is for their own safety,” he said.
Twenty-three government departments are coordinating to ensure a smooth roll out on Saturday. For instance, the department of energy will ensure uninterrupted power supply, the panchayat raj department has ensured registration of health staff working under the zilla panchayat, and has carried out planning for vaccination sites and provision of logistics and other support. The Ministry of Defence too has pitched in by ensuring the registration of armed forces beneficiaries, and carrying out vaccine supply runs to remote and sensitive areas.
“The vaccine rollout will be carried out in the same way elections that are conducted in a well-planned manner with electoral booths. This is going to be a big exercise for us and we are hoping to finish it well,” said Pandey.
Two dry runs had been carried out in a limited capacity across the country on January 2 and 8 to familiarise health workers with the process and also to identify lacunae or problems early and fix them before V-Day arrived. Two problems that stood out were trouble with the CoWin app, and internet connectivity, both of which, are crucial for the whole exercise. Arrangements such as tablets or other devices have been made for internet connections.
Pandey added that control rooms have been set up in each district to communicate with vaccination sites. “Control rooms are in place to supervise and keep tabs on sites and avoid the spread of rumours. If there is any problem at any site, the control rooms will get an update and they will coordinate with officers to resolve the issue,” he said.
24,300 to get jab on the first day
243 centres identified for the launch
18 district hospitals, 13 government medical colleges, 5 private medical colleges, 6 private hospitals, 145 taluk hospitals, 27 Primary Health Centres and 19 Urban PHCs
8 BBMP centres
Victoria Hospital, CV Ramanagar General Hospital, KC General, Jayanagar Hospital, St Johns Hospital, Mallasandra primary health centre, East Point Medical College and Yelahanka Public Hospital; St. John’s Medical College in Bengaluru set to administer over 7,000 doses, Nine parallel vaccination session sites will be run there
10 walk-in coolers, 4 walk-in freezers, 3,210 ice line refrigerators, 3,312 cold boxes, 46,591 vaccine carriers and 2,25,749 ice packs available
1.5 lakh Covishield vaccine doses stocked at Dasappa Hospital, B’luru