States, Union Territories asked to get storage facilities ready for Covid-19 vaccines

New Delhi: The health ministry is preparing a plan for distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in the country and has asked the states and Union Territories to ensure that the supply chain and storage facilities are in place. The ministry said the states must repair all cold-chain equipment that will be used once a vaccine is developed. Vaccines typically must be stored and transported at cold temperatures.

“A robust mechanism for storage of vaccines and maintenance of the cold-chain is imperative,” the health ministry said in a letter to the secretaries of all states, National Health Mission directors, state immunisation officers and state cold-chain officers.

“New vaccine introduction in the system would require meticulous operational planning at all levels,” the ministry said.

It asked the states to train all staff concerned in vaccine and cold-chain handling and management.

“A robust planned preventive maintenance should be in place,” it said. The Centre said the states must have an alternative plan for cold-chain and dry storage to deal with any emergency, adding that recording and reporting mechanisms should be strengthened.

It asked for taskforces to be formed at the state, district and block levels, where cold-chain preparedness should be taken up for discussion.

The government expert group on vaccines, which looks into the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines from India and abroad and the guiding principles for prioritisation of groups for vaccination, has proposed setting up a digital platform to track procurement and record administration. There are three Covid-19 vaccine candidates in various phases of clinical trials in India. According to the department of biotechnology, more than 30 vaccine candidates are in various stages of development. Cadila and Bharat Biotech have completed phase-1 trials.

“Phase-1 trials along with parallel studies in large animals have been completed. The trial has revealed excellent safety of the candidate vaccine,” the official said.

The Astra Zeneca-University of Oxford vaccine being manufactured by Serum Institute of India has begun phase-2/3 trials.

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