With 29,000 cold chains, India prepares for Covid vaccination: health secretary

The center has drawn up a detailed cold chain infrastructure plan to prepare the country for the immediate launch of a Covid-19 vaccine whenever it is ready. No vaccine has yet received emergency approval for use.

The center intends to set up at least one center in each block to manage any adverse event after immunization (AEFI), Health Ministry officials said on Tuesday.

The infrastructure would consist of 29,000 points for the cold chain, 240 coolers, 70 freezers, 45,000 ice refrigerators, 41,000 freezers and 300 solar freezers. States that do not have adequate infrastructure for the cold chain have already received the equipment, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said during a briefing.

The center also sent guidelines to states for estimating cold chain electrical and non-electrical equipment and consolidating them. “These guidelines would help the states and territories of the Union to determine how much cold chain equipment they would need to keep the vaccine they receive for inoculation safe,” Bhushan said.

Meetings held

According to the Secretary of Health, all 36 states and TUs held meetings of their state steering committees, chaired by chief secretaries and state task forces, chaired by state health secretaries, set up specifically for the purpose of managing and administration of vaccines. Similarly, 633 districts organized meetings of their working group set up for this purpose.

Up to 23 central and state government ministries and departments have been assigned the task of planning, implementing, socializing and raising awareness of the vaccine. Bhushan said training modules for doctors and vaccinators had been prepared, and national and state training had already been completed. As this would be the first time that such a large number of vaccines will be given to adults, the government intends to closely monitor any adverse events. This is important because previous vaccines have been given in hospitals and given especially to children. But now the scale, as well as the fact that vaccines will be administered in various locations, requires a dedicated center for monitoring and managing serious adverse events, said Vinod Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog, who was also present at the briefing. Each block will have a dedicated center for managing any adverse event.

Although Covid-19 cases are declining in India, “we must be happy with caution,” he said.