Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired a meeting on the coronavirus situation and arrangements for the delivery and distribution of a vaccine. Modi called for “speedy access” to the vaccine when it is ready, while also directing officials to keep in mind the “geographical span and diversity” of India in planning the logistics and delivery.
The meeting was attended by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and other senior officials. This is the second such meeting led by Modi in the last 48 hours.
India has recorded the highest number of overall coronavirus cases after the United States, and experts have warned that infections may rise during the festival season. However, the number of active cases in the country fell below 8 lakh for the first time in 1.5 months on Saturday, which the health ministry called a “significant achievement”.
A statement said the prime minister also suggested officials to develop a vaccine delivery system on the lines of conducting elections and disaster management programmes, involving all levels of the government and citizen groups.
“Vaccine delivery should involve the participation of states/ UTs/ district level functionaries, civil society organisations, volunteers, citizens, and experts from all necessary domains. The entire process should have a strong IT backbone and the system should be designed in such a manner so as to have a lasting value to our healthcare system.”— Prime Minister Narendra Modi
The statement added that a National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19, also called NEGVAC, is working in consultation with states/Union Territories and all relevant stakeholders to prepare a detailed blueprint for the storage, distribution and administration of the vaccine.
“The prime minister stressed that every step in the logistics, delivery, and administration should be put in place rigorously. It must include advanced planning of cold storage chains, distribution network, monitoring mechanism, advance assessment, and preparation of ancillary equipment required, such as vails, syringes etc.”— PMO
The prime minister highlighted a steady decline in daily cases, growth rate and number of deaths over the last three weeks, but warned against any complacency. “He insisted on continued social distancing, Covid appropriate behaviour such as wearing the mask, regularly washing hands and sanitation etc, especially in the wake of upcoming festival season,” the statement said.
The prime minister’s office, citing two pan-India studies on the Covid-19 virus genome, said that it is genetically stable and there is no major mutation.
On October 4, Harsh Vardhan had said that the government’s target was to receive and utilise 40 to 50 crore coronavirus vaccines, covering approximately 20 to 25 crore of the country’s population, by July 2021. Vardhan said that frontline workers will be given priority during vaccinations. The government believes a vaccine will be ready by early 2021.
India’s cumulative tally of coronavirus infections stood at 74,32,680 on Saturday, having risen by 62,212 in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed. The country’s toll rose by 837 to 1,12,998.