• Kushal Kumar Jha

State Immunization Officer: Delhi all set for the COVID-19 vaccination drive for the entire city

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Source: PTI State Immunization Officer Suresh Seth on Thursday said that Delhi is all set for the COVID-19 vaccination drive, and its entire population can be covered in a month if hospital staff and nurses are involved in the process. “We have 600 cold storage points and around 1,800 outreach sites for the universal immunization programme for children. We have sufficient equipment for vaccines that can be stored at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius and those that need minus 15 to minus 25 degrees Celsius. The central government is further strengthening the infrastructure and providing more equipment,” Seth told PTI. He said that the equipment and infrastructure for the vaccines requiring ultra-cold conditions (minus 70°C) are not there, but “we don’t think there will be any problem logistically because the immunization programme will be carried out in a phased manner.” Dr. Ajit Jain, the nodal officer for COVID-19 at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty hospital, said, “Being the national capital, it has got the equipment and capacity. All we need is trained manpower to carry out the immunization programme effectively.” According to the experts, the extremely low temperature of minus 70°C, which is required by the potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer poses a great challenge for its delivery in a developing country like India, especially when it comes to smaller towns and the rural areas. However, Pharma company Moderna says that its vaccine candidate is stable at regular freezer temperature – minus 20°C – for up to six months, and after thawing it can last in the refrigerator for 30 days. It can also be kept at room temperature for up to 12 hours. Also, the vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and being tested by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the nation, “can be easily administered in existing healthcare systems, stored at ‘fridge temperature’ and distributed using existing logistics”, according to Oxford University. According to AIIMS Director Dr. Randeep Guleria, most vaccines in India need to be stored at a temperature ranging from 2 to 8 degrees Celcius. The lowest temperature at which the vaccines can be kept to maintain the cold chain in most parts of the country is minus 25° Celcius. N K Ganguly, former Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research, said there is “enough infrastructure” available pan India to store a Covid-19 vaccine at a temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius. “We have enough number of refrigerated vans to transport the vaccine from one place to another, he said. “There is only one vaccine in India – the Rotavirus vaccine from Bharat Biotech – that needs to be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius. The company has made arrangements for its storage and transport. We don’t have the equipment and infrastructure for anything that needs to be stored below this temperature,” he pointed out. The vaccine by Pfizer is not made for developing countries like India. “It is priced at USD 1,500. In India, the price should be below Rs 500,” he said. “In Delhi, there will be no problem in terms of storage and distribution if a Covid-19 vaccine needs to be stored at a temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius,” Ganguly said. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had last week said that there shouldn't be VIP or non-VIP categories for the immunization drive against COVID-19, as everyone's life is equally important and priority should lie only for the Corona Warriors, senior citizens, and those having comorbidities. He had also said that it was likely that the distribution plan of the vaccination will be prepared by the Union Government, but he would prefer “priority-based” vaccination which is “technical rather than political in nature.” “First priority should be given to corona warriors as they are working hard during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The second priority should be given to those who are vulnerable groups like senior citizens and then those who have comorbidities,” he had said.

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