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    India to get COVID-19 vaccine within days, says director

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    In an interview, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria said that India will get the COVID-19 vaccine within days. “This is very good news that [Oxford] AstraZeneca got approval for its vaccine by UK regulatory authorities. They have robust data and the same vaccine is being developed by the Serum Institute of India. This is a big step forward not only for India but many parts of the world,” he said.

    “Now, we have a data, and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved based on the studies in UK, Brazil and South Africa. There is also data from Serum Institute of India [SII]. I think, once the data is shown to the regulatory authority, we should get approval for the vaccine in the county within a few days. I would say days rather than weeks or months,” he said.

    All indications were that India was waiting for Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate to get UK approval before giving the emergency use authorisation themselves. UK had announced approval for the vaccine on Thursday.

    A two-day dry run to assess the readiness of the mechanism laid out for the COVID-19 immunisation drive was successfully conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Assam last week.

    The end-to-end exercise was undertaken in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, Rajkot and Gandhinagar of Gujarat, Ludhiana and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar of Punjab, and Sonitpur and Nalbari districts of Assam on Monday and Tuesday.

    Specific teams were formed for various tasks by the district administrations and activities like uploading of dummy beneficiary data, session site creation, vaccine allocation, communicating vaccination details to beneficiaries and vaccinators, and beneficiary mobilisation were carried out, the health ministry said.

    Field feedback on the first day of dun run was reviewed on December 29 through video conferencing with state and district programme officers by the joint secretary (Public Health). “All the states expressed satisfaction in terms of operational approach and use of IT platform to ensure transparency and effective monitoring of vaccination processes expected to cover a large number of people across the country.”

    Backed with the experience of rolling out Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) and conducting nationwide multiple wide-range injectable vaccination campaigns such as measles-rubella and adult Japanese Encephalitis campaign, required steps were being undertaken to vaccinate priority population groups such as healthcare and frontline workers, and people above 50 years for COVID-19, it stated.

    The exercise tested the COVID-19 vaccination process, including planning and preparations according to operational guidelines; creation of facilities and users on Co-WIN application, session site creation and mapping of sites, uploading healthcare workers data, receipt of vaccines and their allocation by districts, session planning, deployment of vaccination team, logistics mobilisation at session sites, mock drill of conducting the drive, and reporting and review meetings at block, district and state levels.

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