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Covid vaccination: Odisha begins preparations, chief secretary-led panel to oversee process

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha government has begun the process of forming various committees at state and district levels for Covid-19 vaccination programme, which may run over a year after the vaccine is launched.

Acting on a letter from Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan written on October 26, the government is in the process of forming a steering committee, a state taskforce and district level task forces, additional chief secretary (health) (ACS-health) Pradipta Mohapatra said.

The Union health secretary’s letter to the states said, “In all likelihood, the Covid-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included sequentially starting from healthcare workers.” It emphasizes on the need for strong advisory and coordination mechanism.

Sources said the file pertaining to formation of the chief secretary-led panel and the task force has been sent to chief minister Naveen Patnaik for approval. While chief secretary Asit Tripathy will head the state steering committee, the ACS-health will lead the state task force to be notified soon.

The chief secretary-led steering panel with the ACS-health as its convenor will have an oversight role in planning and implementation of various activities. It will ensure interdepartmental coordination as has been suggested in the terms of reference for the panel by the Centre.

Apart from preparing database of priority groups such as healthcare professionals and anganwadi workers, other Covid warriors and mobilizing human resources, the steering committee will explore corporate social responsibility funds for financing various activities relating to introduction of the vaccine before it is launched. After the vaccine is available, it will guide on mirco-planning and monitoring.

The task force will provide funding and operational guidelines for districts to implement the vaccination drive and review cold chain preparedness. The task force will work to involve organisations such as UNDP, Unicef, WHO and professional bodies such as IMA and other civil society organizations as partners in the vaccination programme.

The steering committee and the taskforce will develop media plans to address rumour mongering and possible overenthusiasm among different sections of people. At the district level, there will be district task force led by the district magistrates, which will track blocks and urban areas for adherence to timelines.

The Centre has asked the states to plan Covid vaccination in such a way that it doesn’t disturb other routine healthcare programmes. Anticipating that vaccine supply will be limited in the beginning, there would be prioritization of socio-demographic groups. The Centre has formed a National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 for guiding the vaccination strategy in the country.

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