By: Adelle Fernandes
India kick started 2021 with a ray of hope; as the Coronavirus vaccine dry run began in the country. Union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan urged citizens not to be influenced by rumors regarding the vaccine and said, “I appeal to people not to pay heed to rumors. Ensuring the safety and efficacy of the vaccine is our priority. Different kinds of rumors were spread during polio immunization but people took the vaccine and India is now polio-free.”
With the dream of having a vaccine finally becoming a reality, Mumbai is getting geared up to immunize 1.26 Lakh health care workers on the day of the arrival of the vaccine. With Mumbai having been a COVID hotspot right from the advent of the virus, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has trained 1,367 vaccinators and plans to immunize 8,000-12,000 people in a day across eight centers in the coming weeks; if enough doses are supplied.
The BMC has fed data of 1.26 lakh health workers on the COVID Vaccine Intelligence Work (Co-WIN) software. Civic officials expect the administration of the vaccine to begin in Mumbai in the coming weeks. The automated Co-WIN software will select health care workers registered sequentially and send them a message with important details like the date, shift and center where they will get vaccinated. BMC has decided on having two shifts, from 8 am to 2 pm, and from 2 pm to 8 pm. An Indian Express report states that health care workers who miss their slot will be moved to the bottom of the list and will be contacted towards the end of the administration of the first dose.
Eight centres have been finalized in Mumbai for the first phase of the vaccination; namely, DR RN Cooper hospital (model vaccine center), KEM, Sion, Nair, Rajawadi, VN Desai, Kandivali Shatabdi and Bandra Bhabha hospital. Vaccine centers in medical colleges will each have 10 teams of vaccinators and aim to immunize 2,000 people on a daily basis, while smaller hospitals will have at least five vaccinators and target of 1,000 beneficiaries. With 8,000-12,000 immunizations per day, BMC aims to complete the administration of the first dose of the vaccine in 15-20 days, provided they have steady supply of vaccine vials.
Storing the Vaccine
Reports in the Indian Express state that vaccines in Mumbai will be stored in Kanjurmarg’s 5,000 square feet BMC owned building. This space will reportedly store 1.2 Crore doses. The facility will have two walk-in coolers, each measuring 40 cubic metres, with the ability to store 50-60 lakh doses each. This facility is still under construction.
Until this facility is ready, BMC will make its F South office in Parel the main storage facility. It is from here that vials will be transported to respective vaccine centres in the 300 ice boxes available for the same. Each centre can store 50,000 doses in one ice line refrigerator. In addition, Dr. Gomare said a walk-in freezer of 20 cubic metre, has been proposed for purchase.
The uncertainty, fear and hesitancy Mumbai’s health care workers are facing is understandable, as they are the first ones to receive a dose of the vaccine. The Public Health Department aims to dispel all fear through education, information and communication; via videos by doctors explaining the essentials of the vaccine. The state and the BMC have stated that no one will be forced to be vaccinated, only counseling sessions will be conducted for those skeptical about the vaccine; to ensure a decent turn out.
Crowds at Vaccine centers
The above mentioned time slots will aid in controlling crowds and ensure physical distancing. The BMC is still debating over whether a token system at the entrance will be effective in managing the crowd at these centers. Executive health officer, Dr. Mangala Gomare said an electronic display will show which token number is next and the beneficiaries can enter accordingly, thus ensuring a chaos-free environment.
What does the Future Look like?
After Mumbai’s health care workers receive the first dose of the vaccine, front line workers like the Police force, BEST bus drivers, Municipal workers, etc. will be immunized next. For the second phase, BMC had earlier informed that it will rope in jumbo facilities and other peripheral hospitals as vaccination centers. “We are also continuously training our staff about the vaccination and its administration. The number of vaccinators will keep on increasing,” said Dr. Sheela Jagtap, immunization in charge, Mumbai.
Times of India