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Indian Govt. asks states to form committees for smooth COVID-19 vaccination drive

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The Centre has asked states to constitute committees for coordination and overseeing COVID-19 vaccination drive while ensuring minimal disruptions in other routine healthcare services and stressed early tracking of social media to dispel rumors which could impact the community acceptance of coronavirus inoculation.

Stating that COVID-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included “sequentially starting from health care workers”, the Health Ministry has sought constitution of committees at state and district levels which will review preparatory activities in terms of cold chain preparedness, operational planning, strategies for state-specific challenges in terms of geographical terrain and hard-to-reach areas, etc.

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In a letter to states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has suggested setting up of a state steering committee (SSC) chaired by the chief secretary, a state task force (STF) led by additional Chief Secretary or principal secretary (health), and a district task force (DTF) to be headed by the district magistrate.

An annexure attached with the letter outlines the terms of references for the committees according to which the SSC will ensure active involvement of all departments concerned and devise innovative strategies for improving community engagement (‘Jan Bhagidaari’) for improved coverage of COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.

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“Ensure early tracking of social media and other platforms for possible misinformation and rumors around the COVID-19 vaccine that could impact the community acceptance for the vaccine,” it said.

The SSC will also have to institute a reward/recognition mechanism for achievement of best performing district/block/urban ward, etc.

“The COVID-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included sequentially starting from HCWs. Therefore, it is important to create strong advisory and coordination mechanism at state and district level to guide the process of COVID-19 vaccine introduction while ensuring minimal disruption of other routine health care services including immunisation,” the letter issued on October 26 stated.

The activities to be conducted by the STF includes providing guidance, including funding and operational guidelines, fixing timelines for districts to plan and implement COVID-19 vaccine introduction whenever a vaccine is made available and identifying vaccinators across government and private sectors so as to minimise disruption of routine immunisation services.

Activities also include planning and mapping of vaccination sessions where HCWs will be vaccinated during the 1st phase and mapping human resources across departments that could be deployed for vaccination sessions for verification of beneficiaries, crowd management and overall coordination at the session site and The STF will also track districts for adherence to timelines for overall implementation of vaccine introduction.

The DTF will monitor progress of database of beneficiaries on COVID-19 vaccination, ensure training of all concerned HR on COVID-19 vaccination Beneficiary Management system (CVBMS), monitor progress on key activities such as microplanning, communication planning, cold chain and vaccine logistics planning. Accountability to be fixed for each activity at all levels.

The DTF will develop a robust communication planning at all levels to “address rumour mongering as well as vaccine eagerness”, track blocks and urban areas for adherence to timelines for various activities required for introduction of COVID-19 vaccin, besides ensuring timely disbursal of funds at all levels and sharing feedback at state level for review.

The terms of references mention that SSC should meet at least once a month, STF once a fortnight, and DTF once a week.

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