'Start vaccinating frontline workers from Feb 1st week'

Initiate Covid-19 vaccination of frontline workers from first week of February: Centre to states

State-level officials have been asked to initiate planning and review so that vaccination of the frontline workers can start by the first week of February

A Health official shows a bottle with a dose of the AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, at Infectious Diseases Hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka January 29, 2021. Credit: REUTERS

The Union Health Ministry on Friday asked the states to start vaccinating the 20 million identified frontline workers from the first week of February.

In a letter to the State administrations, Manohar Agnani, Additional Secretary in the Health Ministry wrote that a database of more than 61 lakh frontline workers had been uploaded in the Co-WIN software as on date so that the states/UTs could shart giving the shots from next week.

Also Read | CoWIN readied to handle 10 million shots daily: Official

According to the ministry’s Dec 29 operational guidelines, the category of frontline workers will include personnel from State and Central Police departments, armed forces, home guard, prison staff, disaster management volunteers and civil defence organisation, municipal workers and revenue officials engaged in Covid-19 containment, surveillance and associated activities.

The latest directive from the Centre means vaccination of healthcare workers and frontline workers would continue subsequently.

So far, till Friday, 33.68 lakh healthcare workers have been vaccinated at 62,939 sessions, which means, about 53% of those who could have been vaccinated in those sessions. Ministry officials admit that there is a vaccine hesitancy among people, resulting in low turnout.

"The required doses of both types of vaccines (Covishield and Covaxin) have been allocated to the States/Union Territories and further augmentation will be made through subsequent releases of vaccine doses. The States/UTs should ensure that sessions must be created for both types of vaccines,” Agnani wrote.

State-level officials have been asked to initiate planning and review so that vaccination of the frontline workers can start by the first week of February.

Because of the hesitancy factor, the Centre has modified the Co-WIN platform permitting vaccination of a new person in someone else’s slot provided the person’s name is in the database. The modification was done with the purpose of reducing vaccine wastage.

The Centre plans to inoculate 300 million Indians by August – beginning with 30 million healthcare and frontline workers - with the aim of breaking the SARS-CoV-2 chain of transmission. However, experts have pointed out that this is impossible going by the current rate of vaccination.