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COVID: Healthcare workers to get vaccinated first, followed by frontline workers, India orders 83 crore syringes

There were only three suppliers of N-95 masks in March with a capacity of 1 lakh masks per day. There are now 3,000 manufacturers in India, and the domestic production capacity has risen to 8 lakh N-95 masks per day.

Preparations of the largest mass vaccination program are moving ahead at a fast pace in India. As per the reports, the government has decided to provide Covid-19 vaccine shots to the healthcare workers on priority, including doctors, paramedics, nurses and hospital staff. After the healthcare workers, the frontline workers will be next in the line.

Frontline workers divided into six categories

In an exclusive, Times Now has reported that a meeting was held between the Ministry of Health Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and all state governments’ representatives. They decided on the categorization of the frontline workers. The reports suggest that the government has decided to divide them into six categories starting with the police, civil defence and home guard personnel, paramilitary personnel, municipal workers, disaster management professionals (national and state level) and fire safety personnel.

No mass vaccination program in the beginning

The government has made it clear that there will be no mass vaccination program at first. It will be done on a priority basis, starting with the healthcare workers then frontline workers followed by the people living in hot zone regions. Once all these areas are covered, the rest of the population will be vaccinated. Earlier, government had made it clear that the vaccination program will be voluntary basis, and no one will be forced to take it.

The government ordered 83 crore syringes

The government of India has placed orders for 83 crore syringes for the Covid-19 vaccination and the Universal Immunization program. In a statement released by the Union Health Ministry on Thursday, bids were invited for 35 crore additional syringes. Additionally, 36,433 ventilators have been delivered to government hospitals in the last nine months. The cost of those ventilators ranged from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 10 lakhs.

The ministry said, “This is important because from the independence of the country till pre-COVID times, all the public health facilities in the country had only about 16,000 ventilators but in less than 12 months 36,433 ‘Made in India’ ventilators have been supplied to all the public health facilities.”

The journey from importer to exporter in masks and PPE-kits

It has to be noted that when the pandemic hit India, there were no facilities that were manufacturing ventilators, N-95 masks, or PPE kits in India. All these essential products were being imported. Also, there were no specific standards in India at that time. The ministry said, “The Central Government recognized the challenges posed by the pandemic in the very initial stages and successfully ensured more than adequate availability and supplies of essential medical items.”

The statement further added that in March, only a minuscule number of domestic PPE-kits were being produced and since then India has become the world’s second-largest manufacturer of PPE-kits. India can now produce 10 lakh PPE coveralls per day. “There are already nearly 1,700 indigenous manufacturers and suppliers. Nearly 170 lakh PPE kits have been distributed free of cost and the buffer stock of PPE kits available with the Central and State Governments has grown from about 2 lakh in March to more than 89 lakh at present. The average price to has come down substantially from nearly Rs 600 to about Rs 200 per kit in nine months,” the ministry added

There were only three suppliers of N-95 masks in March with a capacity of 1 lakh masks per day. There are now 3,000 manufacturers in India, and the domestic production capacity has risen to 8 lakh N-95 masks per day. India is now exporting N-95 masks, and over four crore N-95 masks have been distributed in different states free of cost. Some time back, N-95 masks were made available at Jan Aushadi Kendra across the country at just Rs.25.

Vaccine dry run in all states from January 2, 2021

As per the statement released by the Ministry of Health, a dry run for the vaccination program will take place in all states on January 2. The ministry said, “The dry run will be conducted by all the State and UT governments on 2nd January 2021 (Saturday). The activity is proposed to be conducted in all State Capitals in at least 3 session sites; some States will also include districts that are situated in difficult terrain/have poor logistical support; Maharashtra and Kerala are likely to schedule the dry run in major cities other than their Capital.” The ministry further added that during the dry run, the main focus will be on the management of any possible adverse events after immunisation.

“The first round of the dry run was conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Punjab on 28-29th December 2020 in two districts each where five session sites with 25 beneficiaries each were identified. No major issues were observed in the operational aspects during this dry run. All States expressed confidence in the operational guidelines and IT platform for large scale programme implementation,” it said.

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