Homehealthcare News

COVID-19: Govt's 3-tier vaccination priority plan vs BJP's free vaccine promise in poll-bound Bihar

This article is more than 1 year old.

COVID-19: Govt's 3-tier vaccination priority plan vs BJP's free vaccine promise in poll-bound Bihar

COVID-19: Govt's 3-tier vaccination priority plan vs BJP's free vaccine promise in poll-bound Bihar
Even as the world and the 1.3 billion people in India await a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised "free vaccine for all in Bihar" as soon as it is approved.
"We vow to provide free COVID-19 vaccination to every resident as soon as the Indian Council of Medical Research approves it," reads the first item on BJP's Bihar poll manifesto. Speaking about it, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, "As soon as a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get it for free vaccination."
The poll promise came as a surprise as the Union Health Ministry, led by the ruling party BJP, has been working on a three-tiered priority plan for vaccine distribution. PM Modi is believed to be overseeing its progress.
Amid the short timelines of the pandemic, the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 has been working on a full distribution plan for the vaccine, once it is available. Based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, priority groups of "at high risk individuals" are being worked out.
The government's initial estimate suggests that nearly 20-25 crore people will form part of the priority groups. These will include doctors, nurses, healthcare and other frontline workers, elderly population with co-morbidities and those who are immunocompromised.
Bihar's population is nearly 10 crore and if the BJP has to keep its promise, half of the Centre's initial vaccine supplies will be diverted to Bihar. This goes against the promise of equitable distribution of vaccines to Indian citizens. There has however been no formal announcement and commitment from the central government to this tune.
Speaking at the Grand Challenges Annual meeting 2020 recently, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had said that the country was planning to procure 400-500 million vaccine dosages by July end and it aims to administer COVID-19 vaccine to 20-25 crore Indians by June-July and priority groups are being worked out. The vaccine will first be made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity the Vardhan mentioned.
Reports suggest that the government is close to finalising its first priority list of 3 crore high risk individuals, which will have nearly 70-80 lakh doctors, around 2 crore healthcare workers, including ASHA workers. The first priority list could be expected by early November.
Moreover, the government is planning to use a digitised network for vaccine distribution, wherein it will use digital health IDs which are being made under the National Digital Health Mission to identify beneficiaries. However, since the NDHM is still in the pilot stage, it has not been made mandatory and similar to an electoral process other health IDs will also be valid.
Further, the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network will be repurposed to store and track the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. This system is being currently used in the Universal Immunisation Program of the government. The electronic network works to track the latest vaccine stock position, facility level dashboard, temperature control at storage facility among other aspects.
Speaking at the Grand Challenges event, PM Modi had announced that digitised network and digital health IDs will be used in the vaccination of Indian citizens.
Besides, so far the Indian government has not declared any vaccine stockpiling effort or signed any supply deals with vaccine manufacturers or other stakeholders. Currently, authorities are identifying the cold storage infrastructure across states and discussions have been held to gauge the current capacity of syringes and vials for vaccination. The government has also maintained that it has funds available to meet all requirements of the vaccination process.
next story

Market Movers