COVID: CMs discuss preparations for vaccination programme in states; Issues of possible side efffects, priority-based distribution raised

Various aspects related to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed, including logistics and the need for verification of possible side effects, were flagged by chief ministers during the meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday on the coronavirus situation.
At the meeting, Prime Minister Modi said any vaccine against coronavirus that is administered to citizens will meet all necessary scientific criteria and stressed that governments at all levels will have to work together to ensure that the vaccination drive is smooth, systematic and sustained.
Strategies to be adopted at the field level, including identifying people to be vaccinated on a priority basis and distribution methods, were discussed, according to officials.
The chief ministers assured Prime Minister Modi that they were ready to work with the Centre to ensure the success of the vaccination programme. The states apprised about the preparations on the ground, including cold chain centres, and gave suggestions.
At the meeting, the prime minister avoided giving a timeline about the vaccine, saying the government is keeping a close watch as some vaccine candidates have reached the final stage of the trial. He asserted that the safety of citizens will be as much a priority for the government as the speed of the vaccination programme.
However, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said after the meeting that there are indications that a vaccine may be ready in about four to six weeks.
“He (PM) spoke about it (vaccine) and there are indications that it may be ready in about four weeks, we (centre) are preparing for it and asked the states to also make all the necessary arrangements,” Yediyurappa said.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao noted that there are different weather and climatic conditions in the country and the virus also did not uniformly affect the country.
He was of the view that the vaccine too may give different side effects in different regions and this factor too should be considered in the vaccination programme, according to a statement from Rao’s office.
So the efficacy and side-effects of the vaccine have to be assessed before it is given to all, Rao opined.
“While there is no fixed date for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine, states have been asked to be prepared as it can happen any time after January,” Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told reporters after participating in the meeting through video conference.
Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who participated in the video conference along with Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, said the Centre has asked states to constitute a steering committee at state-level and district and taluk levels for quick and effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccine once available.
He said the plan was to provide the vaccine on a priority basis for 30 crore people.
Among the priority category, about one crore would be health workers, two crore corona warriors, about 26 crore people above the age of 50-60 years and remaining are those with comorbidities, he said.
Distribution centres, cold chain centres and vaccinators are being identified.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray informed the meeting that a task force has been set up to oversee the distribution and vaccination, as in other states.
He said the task force will discuss aspects such as availability of the vaccine, its side effects, cost and distribution.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured Prime Minister Modi that her government is fully prepared to work with the Centre and all other stakeholders for the speedy implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the state.
She said the entire nation is looking forward to an early vaccination programme and West Bengal is fully prepared with trained human resources and required infrastructure.
The meeting comes as the central government has been putting in place measures for quick and effective distribution of coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.
“The prime minister, during the meeting, said states need to have cold storages ready for vaccines in all districts and also at the public health centres,” Meghalaya Health Minister AL Hek said.
Modi asked chief ministers to share their suggestions in dealing with the virus and also about vaccine programme with him in writing, saying no one can impose anything and they have to work together.
The Centre has already asked states to take steps needed for strengthening surveillance of adverse events following immunisation before the COVID-19 vaccine is introduced.
In its letter dated November 18, the Union health ministry listed initiatives which it said are essential to further strengthen the existing adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) surveillance system of India so that timely and complete AEFI reporting for COVID-19 inoculation is possible.