by Dr Ashok Rattan
DIVOC Quality Head
India has done well so far in its fight against the pandemic and now vaccines against COVID-19 have brought a glimmer of hope to our citizens. However, to win the battle, our strategy must continuously evolve in the fields of vaccination, diagnostics, contact tracing, tracking, sero-surveillance, data analysis, and communication advocacy to overcome the challenges in a dynamic Covid environment.
As of March 1 2021, 1.48 million doses have been administered in India. Additionally, the government has done well in communicating about the vaccination and in giving confidence to the citizens. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi getting the indigenous vaccine has no doubt sent a very positive signal for vaccine acceptance. But the process needs to be accelerated as only 1 per cent of the country’s population has been vaccinated so far. This is where private pan-India laboratories could play a big role. Private participation will compliment the government’s effort in speeding up the process as it is very crucial that we vaccinate people soon to build herd immunity against the infection. Experts have recommended that mass vaccination is the only way out if we want to protect ourselves from the second wave. And by involving private players our government can easily increase the coverage and ensure that the general public has quick access to vaccination, especially those in the high-risk category.
Large private labs already have a ready network of labs spread across India in Tier 1, 2 and semi-urban areas, along with an established cold-chain network supported by an army of trained workforce. The phlebotomists at any organized diagnostic laboratory chain are well-trained for phlebotomy and can proficiently inoculate the population with utmost compliance under the supervision of MBBS doctors. As per the official guidelines private labs can easily create dedicated sections for registration verification vaccination and observation if given a chance to participate in the vaccine administration drive.
As the crisis unfolded, private labs delivered care in locations that were previously reserved for other uses. To cater to the increased demand places like parking lots and mobile vans were converted into makeshift sample collection sites. We could look at a similar model for mass vaccination drives. Temporary setups in schools, malls, hotels/dormitories, airports, and large corporate houses could be made to conduct inoculation drive as per the laid down SOPs and operational guidelines of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, which will include vaccine storage, handling, administration and documentation. The entire process will be similar to that being followed at hospitals, including registration on CoWIN, utilisation of only those nurses who have been specifically trained on COVID19 vaccination administration, infection control protocols, documentation standards, etc
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