The Centre on Tuesday stated that as many as three crore frontline healthcare workers will be among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine, according to the Hindustan Times.

The 3 crore include 70 lakh doctors and paramedics, in addition to 2 crore other frontline health workers, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at the weekly briefing on Covid-19. “We have the cold chain, vials, syringes and everything,” he added, indicating that the country already has the infrastructure in place to vaccinate three crore individuals.

The first phase of vaccinations will tentatively take place between January and July 2021. “In the deliberations of the national expert committee on vaccine administration we have come up with a draft prioritisation plan,” Bhushan said. “We have also tried to match the numbers which have come from this draft plan to the number of doses that would become available from tentatively January to July 2021.”

However, Indian Council of Medical Research Director General Dr Balram Bhargava warned that people should not let their guard down even after a vaccine becomes available. “We have to remain cautious... we have to test, treat and isolate for a good time,” he said. “The requirement for this may gradually reduce over time, but there is no scope for relaxation.”

Bhargava said there are already 28,000 cold storages existing in the country because India immunises 2.5 crore children and adults every year. “We also have our own digital platform that has all updated information – from vaccine procurement to storage, cold chain and transportation in refrigerated vehicles,” he said. “If non-refrigerated vehicles are used, then to transport vaccines in them, a special kind of refrigerated boxes are used where temperature is regulated.”

Bhushan said the government is also engaging with private hospitals and care centres who claim they have the adequate facilities to store vaccines. “We are in constant engagement with private sector healthcare providers and going ahead as the contours of the plan develop we would be sharing it with you,” he said. “We have surplus capacity for both vials as well syringes domestically in the country. We are in constant touch with the manufacturers. We also have an existing inventory...”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on October 17 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 prime minister also suggested to 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.

India’s Covid-19 case count on Wednesday rose to 76,51,107, with 54,044 new infections in 24 hours. The country’s toll rose by 717 to 1,15,914. There are 7,40,090 active cases, 67,95,103 recoveries, and the recovery rate stood at 88.81%. The number of active cases has been on a constant decline this month, while the number of daily new cases has shown a downward trend.

‘Multiple IDs to be used’

Multiple IDs will be prescribed under the National Digital Health Mission during the coronavirus vaccination drive, expected to begin in 2021, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that multiple IDs will be issued to ensure that nobody is deprived of the coronavirus vaccine.

Asked whether such an ID would be mandatory, Bhushan said: “The National Digital Health Mission as it exists today does not make digital ID mandatory to receive service under the digital ecosystem that it is creating. Therefore, to say that it would become mandatory for vaccination and those who don’t have health IDs would be deprived, is probably not the right interpretation.”

He said the digital health ID will be utilised in cases where the individual does not possess another health ID. “It would be almost like the electoral scenario, where multiple IDs are prescribed [for voters], beforehand,” Bhushan said. He added that the government had received over 7,000 comments on data management policy on the digital health ID, and the policy could be refined based on these suggestions.

Follow today’s live updates on Covid-19 here