No incidence of damage to COVID vaccine doses reported after Assam hospital incident: Govt

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New Delhi, Feb 12 (PTI) The government is aware that 1,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine were found frozen at Silchar Medical College and Hospital, Assam on January 15, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey informed the Lok Sabha on Friday.

No other specific incidence of damage to vaccine doses in cold storages has been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Health so far, he said responding to a question on damaged COVID-19 vaccine doses.

In a written reply to another question, the minister said till February 11, a total of 70.17 lakh healthcare workers (HCWs) and frontline workers (FLWs) have been administered COVID-19 vaccine.

Till February 8, Rs 960.75 crore has been utilised for procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

Further, Rs 480 crore has been earmarked as operational cost for COVID-19 vaccination drive, of which Rs 123.49 crore has been disbursed to states and Union territories (UTs), he said.

The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) provides guidance on all aspects of the vaccination programme, including prioritisation of population groups, procurement and inventory management, vaccine selection, vaccine delivery and tracking mechanism, among others.

The NEGVAC has prioritised healthcare workers, frontline workers, persons aged 50 years and above, and those aged less than 50 years with comorbidities, for COVID-19 vaccination.

Till February 9, a total of 97.72 lakh healthcare workers and 71.64 lakh frontline workers have been registered on Co-WIN application, Choubey said.

Two coronavirus vaccines, namely ‘Covishield’ manufactured by Serum Institute of India and ‘Covaxin’ manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Limited, have been granted permission for restricted use in emergency situation by the national regulator.

Till February 9, a total of 59.56 lakh doses of Covishield and 3.02 lakh doses of Covaxin have been administered, the minister informed the Parliament.

Pfizer-Biotech vaccine has not received any clearance for use in India, he said in response to another question.

Asked if orders placed thus far are expected to cover all those proposed to be vaccinated in the first round at the rate of two doses per person, the MoS said supply orders amounting to a total of 410 lakh doses have been placed by the Centre for both the vaccines.

These supply orders also include 100 lakh doses received from Gavi support through COVAX facility, he said.

'The orders placed so far are sufficient for coverage of the on-going vaccination drive for healthcare and frontline workers. Procurement of additional quantity of vaccines has also been factored in,' Choubey said.

The two COVID-19 vaccines require completion of two-dose schedule at an interval of 28 days to complete the vaccination process. It takes around 14 days after the second dose to develop immunity against SARS-CoV-2 virus, he said in response to another question.

On whether the government proposes to initiate an awareness drive to counter the issues/doubts arising out of the effects of the vaccine and instill confidence among people, the Union minister said a communication strategy has been developed for implementation at national and state levels to raise awareness about “safety, efficacy and immunogenicity of COVID-19 vaccines” through prompt and consistent dissemination of factual information and to address misinformation related to it.

The strategy is based on five key pillars–-advocacy, capacity building, media engagement, community engagement and crisis management. It aims to leverage people's ownership (Jan Bhagidaari) in taking the awareness about vaccination drive and its intended benefits forward, he noted.

Choubey added that several measures have been taken for successful implementation of the strategy.

These include capacity building of stakeholders at national and state levels, including state immunization and IEC officials, civil society organisations, community radio professionals, among others, for leveraging their networks for active campaigning to create awareness about benefits of the vaccination, he said.

Aggressive advocacy to build vaccine confidence has also been done through reputed public and private sector doctors at national and states/UTs levels, who have received vaccination and through other key influencers.

The Ministry of Health is also carrying out real-time review of news reports, and developing and disseminating content on building confidence in vaccines and to counter less than adequate informed media narrative.

A special campaign against vaccine hesitancy has also been launched by Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan, the minister added.

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