Govt Will Cover 30 Crore People in Phase 1 of Vaccination Drive, Says Covid-19 Task Force Head

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Dr. Vinod Paul, a NITI Aayog member and head of the national Covid-19 task force, on Friday said that the government will inoculate 30 crore individuals belonging to priority groups in the first phase of its vaccination drive.

In the next 6-8 months, frontline workers, especially those working in healthcare and the elderly will be targeted in the initial phase of vaccination. He added that 31 hubs had been set up to supply vaccines to 29,000 vaccination points in last-mile delivery.

Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Dr. Paul said that a lot of preparation has already been instituted throughout the country for the disbursal of Covid-19 vaccines. "We are working as one team in India - the industry, the government and the stakeholders. Implementation arms of the government are working in sync with each other. We are on the same page as the industry," Dr. Paul said.

"India will pitch for vaccines for 300 million individuals," he said, explaining that healthcare workers nationwide will be targeted in the immediate phase of vaccination. Preparedness for inoculating other groups prioritised by the government is also in its advanced stages, he added.

"Thirty-one vaccine hubs have been put in place to supply vaccines to 29,000 vaccination points in last mile delivery," he said. "We are looking at vaccination effort as a holistic public health response. We want to minimise deaths related to Covid-19, hence, we chose higher risk groups," he added.

Dr. Paul assured that stockpiling capacity will rise in the future in order to ensure wider vaccination against Covid-19. "We want to ensure that the entire nation develops herd immunity. The ultimate goal is to stall the spread of the disease for which wider vaccination is required," he said.

Remarking on the Serum Institute of India's (SII) Covishield vaccine, Dr. Paul that we were at an inflection point in the approval process. "SEC will look at data from Indian trials and other countries," he said.

The expert panel at the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) today recommended a conditional approval of AstraZeneca and Oxford University's vaccine for emergency use, sources told News18.

Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan evaluated preparedness for the dry run being held across India today for administering the Covid-19 vaccine.

"The target of this exercise is that minutest details are thoroughly researched. At least 2 vaccines have sent their applications to Drug Controller and experts for approval, their data are being studied pro-actively. The lists of health workers have been created and will be uploaded on the Covid platform. Just like we prepare during elections, the same way we need to train each member of all medical teams responsibly," the health minister said during a review meeting with the Delhi government.