India will perhaps be the first country in the world to take the voters’ list as the basis to identify people for vaccination.
Efforts are underway to utilise the electoral rolls to distribute Covid-19 vaccination to the target populations in the country. The Centre has directed all states to come up with proposals to ensure vaccines in the first phase to certain specific groups like medical and frontline workers and persons with co-morbidity conditions etc.
A majority of the states, including Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, have proposed that electoral rolls could be used to identify the eligible persons for vaccination. Sources say that a few other states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, too, have expressed similar views. Perhaps, India will be the first country in the world to take the voters’ list as the basis to identify people for vaccination.
“The size and complexity of our country and the vast areas to be covered here play a role in taking the voters lists for proper identification of beneficiaries,” said a member of the vaccine coordination panel set up by the Centre. Already, the medical and health officials have sought for copies of electoral rolls from the Election Commission of India.
Though no formal green light for distribution of vaccine is there in our country, arrangements are being made to distribute it from the second week of January 2021. Officials say they would be ready to roll out the vaccine even if there is a delay of a few days in regulatory clearances, if any, to the vaccine producers.
All those in the above 50 years age group would be identified based on the electoral rolls, while health staff and police personnel would be identified based on the recommendations of their respective heads of departments. There are others–like people with comorbid conditions–who would be traced with the help of the public health workers (Asha workers).
Officials are planning to utilise technology in a big way for the vaccine distribution. First, all the target population will be identified and then their mobile numbers or other contact details will be registered in an application–Covin–developed by the Union health ministry. This application will at one stage will have the data of all 130 crore people in the country.
Details of persons who take the first vaccine would be registered in the app, which will send alert messages to them for a second dose within a stipulated three-week time. Once a person takes the two doses, he or she will be issued a Covid vaccinated certificate. This certificate is a sort of passport to them for certain purposes like foreign travel etc.
The governments are working on administering vaccines in every polling booth. Each polling booth will cover around 300 persons (25% of the total voters) in a span of two or three days. If some people fail to turn up on the given slot, they will be vaccinated at a later date at a different polling booth, officials say.
All this is really a herculean task, but the scale of deployment of personnel and training indicate that the Centre is taking every precautionary step to see that the vaccination drive goes smoothly. Around 40,000 medical staff have been identified for the vaccination drive and they would be given training in the next two weeks.
The experience of successful conduct of the pulse polio vaccination in our country gives confidence to the officials on the Covid front too. “It’s more or less the same (as pulse polio), the only difference is that here, a large number of adults are given the shot,” explained a senior public health officer from the Telangana government.
Around one crore auto-disposable syringes will arrive in Hyderabad in the next two weeks, from the Faridabad-based Central public sector unit, Hindustan Syringes and Medical Devices Limited. This firm will be producing around 40 crore syringes in the next two months. The government intends to vaccinate around 30 crore people in the first phase. Telangana accounts for around 75 lakh people.
Telangana will also be recruiting 275 doctors, 957 nurses and 1,001 paramedics on an urgent basis in the new few weeks. In all, 3,298 vacancies in the health department will be filled next year, to meet requirements of Covid vaccination. The government has issued orders for speedy recruitment of these posts, without waiting for the normal process.
While arrangements for distribution of vaccines are going on, on the other front, efforts are underway for ramping up production for vaccines in some private manufacturing units across the country, including a few from Hyderabad. The city based Biological E has announced an expansion plan with an outlay of around Rs 220 crore, primarily to step up vaccine production.