Bengal health dept assures on time vaccine drive in Calcutta
The Centre has announced that Covid-19 vaccination will start on January 16 and health officials in Bengal said on Sunday that even if the doses arrive a day before, they can start the drive in the city on time.
But as for districts far away from Calcutta, the officials said, the doses should ideally reach the city by January 14 so they can be transported to remote locations in time for the inoculation to start two days later.
“Even if the does reach a day before, we will be able to serve Calcutta. But to transport some of the consignments to far-flung districts, including parts of north Bengal, we want them to reach us by January 14,” a health department official said.
“A lot will depend on the volume that will be sent. We are prepared for the first round of vaccination, which will involve doctors and others associated with health care.”
Health department officials said they were yet to hear formally from the Centre about when the first lot of the Covishield vaccine, manufactured by Pune’s Serum Institute, would be dispatched to Bengal.
The state has informed the Union health ministry about the six lakh-odd health-care workers who will be given the Covid jab in the first phase.
On Monday, health department officials will start talking to private hospitals seeking details about availability of space and personnel to run vaccination sites.
The Telegraph reported on Sunday that the department’s secretary had told the heads of private hospitals at a meeting on Saturday that they would have to set up Covid-19 vaccination sites on their campuses to administer the jab to their staff.
“We have to find out whether the hospitals have enough space to set up vaccination sites and adequate number of vaccination officers, vaccinators and other support staff,” a health department official said.
Once the list of private hospitals with the required logistics is ready, health department officials will visit the hospitals and train the staff. “It will take a day or two to complete the training,” said the official.
Ten Covid vaccination sites have been identified in Calcutta, and 4,000 across the state. The number of sites will increase once private hospitals are enrolled.
“Whether all sites will be in use from the first day will depend on the number of doses we get. If there are fewer doses, a limited number of sites will be activated,” the official said.
Health department officials have learnt that initially around 11 lakh doses would reach Calcutta.
Ahead of the arrival of Covishield doses, senior health officials held a video conference on Sunday to discuss the various levels of preparedness and finalise the blueprint for vaccine transportation.
“One vial will have 10 doses and a carton will have around 1,200 doses. From the airport, designated vans will transport the consignment to the Bagbazar unit of Central Medical Stores, where the doses will be transferred into walk-in-coolers,” said an official overseeing the logistics of transportation of the vaccine.
“Officials from nearby districts will collect their quota from the Bagbazar store. The doses will be sent to far-flung districts in cold boxes, which will be carried in insulated trucks. We have had a round of talks with police to ensure these vans don’t get stuck on roads during their journey,” the official said.
There are adequate cold storage points in the city to keep vaccines, officials said.
As of now it has been decided that the medical colleges will house vaccination sites and all medical colleges have cold storage points. The two Covid vaccines approved in India for emergency use have to be stored at temperatures ranging between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
“If a particular site does not have cold storage, we will transport the vaccine on the morning of the vaccination day,” an official said.
The Union health ministry has said the polio vaccination programme, which was supposed to start on January 17, has been put on hold to facilitate the Covid-19 inoculation.