Confusion over research institutes in vaccine list

Confusion prevails over including research institutes in Covid-19 vaccine priority list

Representative image. Credit: iStock.

Though scientists and researchers feature among the nine categories of health workers on the list provided by the Government of India to the states to draw up a Covid-19 vaccination priority list, it is unclear exactly which agency would accept their details.

The lack of clarity is largely owing to the research institutes’ autonomous status.

The BBMP has sent the template to gather health workers’ details to hospitals, with its commissioner Manjunatha Prasad saying that scientists and researchers attached to the institutions have been included in the list. In reality, no researcher is attached to city hospitals.

While premier institutions like the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have handled Covid samples, only the lab staff from the Department of Microbiology at the hospitals doing Covid testing seem to have been included in the list.

The Centre for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR) at IISc started testing Covid samples on April 28 and its two dozen lab staff have handled 35,000 virus samples so far. "The BBMP has not reached out to CIDR,” said Dr Shashank Tripathi, Assistant Professor, Microbiology & Cell Biology Department, CIDR.

“The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), on the other hand, has been reaching out to institutions under it for researchers' list for priority vaccination. Most of the diagnostic centres under research institutions come under DBT, but IISc is autonomous. We don't know which government channel will contact us."

IISc comes under the Ministry of Education, though it is not sure if they would contact CIDR. The National Centre for Biological Sciences on the GKVK campus on Ballari Road is a DBT institution.

'Centre must clarify'

Dr Rajani Nageshrao, Deputy Director, Immunisation, Department of Health and Family Welfare, said the Government of India will collect data of its staff.

When pointed out that no government channel contacted IISc, she said clarification needed to be sought from the Centre on the issue.

Dr C N Manjunath, state nodal officer for Covid-19 testing, said the state government should not leave out Central institutions on the assumption that the Central government will collect their data.

“Institutions like IISc and NCBS contributed a great deal to fight Covid, especially in the initial stages of the pandemic when not many testing labs were available,” he said, adding that he was instrumental in getting approvals for the institutes to do Covid testing.

‘Some are not interested’

The National Institute of Traditional Medicine (NITM), Belagavi, a Regional Medical Research Centre of the ICMR, started testing Covid samples in April. Its director Dr Debprasad Chattopadhyay said the ICMR had enquired about cold chain facilities at NITM two days ago.

“There are seven scientists, including the director and eight research students. Three are technical officers and nine office staff. We have sent details of 29 staffers to the ICMR,” Dr Chattopadhyay said. “But some of the 17 contractual staff are not interested and they are young,” he said.

The Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysuru, is another research lab that comes under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, which started testing Covid samples in August.