New Delhi: The Central government has directed States and districts to constitute committees at their level for preparatory activities regarding the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine.
These preliminary committees have to do activities in terms of cold chain preparedness, operational planning, communication planning, strategies for anticipated state-specific challenges in terms of geographical terrain, network connectivity, and remote areas.
For this, the Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter, has directed the states and districts to create a coordination mechanism by constituting three committees–State Steering Committee (SSC), State Task Force (STF), and District Task Force (DTF). These committees should meet at least once a month, once a fortnight, and once a week respectively.
State Steering Committee will be chaired by the Chief Secretary and its role is to ensure the planning and implementation of various activities related to the COVID-19 vaccine introduction. It has to oversee interdepartmental coordination with all the departments and mobilization of resources.
“The SSC will ensure that the database of Health Care Workers (HCWs) on the COVID-19 Vaccination Beneficiary Management system (CVBMS) and who will be prioritized for vaccination in the 1st phase. Financial planning for COVID-19 vaccine introduction amongst HCWs followed by other priority socio-demographic groups will also be taken care of by SSC,” as per the annexure attached to the letter.
“The SSC shall review and ensure that regular meetings of State Task Force (STF) and District Task Force (DTF) are held. During the implementation phase (upon the availability of vaccine), the SSC has to ensure early tracking of social media and other platforms for possible misinformation and rumours around the COVID-19 vaccine that could impact the community acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine. The committee has to devise innovative strategies for improving community engagement ‘Jan Bhagidaari’ for improved coverage of COVID-19 vaccine,” it further read.
Similarly, STF will be headed by the Additional Chief Secretary or principal secretary (health) and its function is to regularly monitor the progress of the database of beneficiaries on the COVID-19 vaccination Beneficiary Management system (CVBMS). It has to provide guidance, including funding and operational guidelines, and fix timelines for districts to plan and implement the COVID-19 vaccine introduction as and when the vaccine is made available.
The STF has to further identify vaccinators across government and private sectors in order to minimize the disruption of routine immunization services while introducing the COVID-19 vaccine. It has to make planning and mapping of vaccination sessions where HCWs will be vaccinated during the 1st phase of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. From mapping human resources across departments that could be deployed for vaccination sessions for verification of beneficiaries, crowd management, and overall coordination at session site, the STF has to communicate with District Magistrates (DM) for conducting meetings of District Task Force.
The third committee, DTF, is going to be headed by the District Magistrate. Its main objective is to see overall management of the entire process of introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine in the district and ensure minimal disruption of other routine health services during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“DTF should ensure the identification and accountability of senior officers in the blocks and the urban cities. They should visit these blocks and provide oversight to activities for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, including participation in training, monitoring, etc,” said the annexure.
The DTF has to create robust communication planning at all levels to address rumour-mongering as well as vaccine eagerness. It will make sure that IEC materials are discussed and used in the sensitization workshops.
With multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates in various stages of development, the Central government has started preparations for the introduction of the corona vaccine. As per the advice of the National Expert Group on Vaccination Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), it envisaged that the vaccine will be first prioritized for Health Care Workers (HCWs) followed by other front-line workers and age groups.