India trials national Covid-19 vaccination program

New Delhi, Jan 2 (efe-epa).- India began a nationwide trial of its Covid-19 vaccination program on Saturday, while it awaits approval of the emergency license for the candidate vaccine developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

The first national trial is being conducted in 116 districts in the country — home to some 1.35 billion people — by 96,000 vaccinators at 285 centers to test logistics, inventory management and the effectiveness of the cold chain, which is vital for storing doses, the Indian Health Ministry reported.

The digital platform that will monitor patients and inform recipients of the corresponding vaccination center was also being tested, another fundamental issue for effectively completing the immunization cycle, overcoming the difficulties of its large population and the country’s mostly rural geographic complexity.

In the trial, health workers were summoned with text messages on their phones to go to the stations to receive a mock dose.

The event, which was compared by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to the deployment of a general election in the country, is expected to involve 30 million people during the first phase.

This would include 10 million health workers and 20 million frontline officials, he said.

Although authorities had initially said the first phase would involve 300 million people, the minister said Saturday that details for the plan to vaccinate 260 million people over 60, or over 50 with serious chronic diseases, have yet to be finalized.

“Everything is ready, every detail has been tested (…) all we need is the vaccine,” he said.

Officials have said that India’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign will begin as soon as the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) approves at least one vaccine.

“The drug regulator, DCGI, will soon make a decision on the recommendation of the vaccines,” the minister said.

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