Reduction in COVID-19 vaccine wastage will ensure enhanced vaccination, says government

The Union Health Ministry is working closely with all States and UTs in addressing the issue of vaccine hesitancy on a regular basis.

COVID-19 vaccine is an essential public health commodity with global scarcity and therefore, its wastage must be reduced and kept to a minimum level which will further help inoculate many people, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday.

Referring to some media reports stating that the ministry’s insistence on keeping vaccine wastage below 1% is unrealistic and undesirable, it said several states have organised vaccination in such a way, that not only there is no wastage but they are able to extract more doses from the vial and thus show a negative wastage.

“Hence, the expectation that vaccine wastage should be 1% or less is not at all unreasonable. It is reasonable, desirable and achievable,” the ministry said.

It also said that vaccination against COVID-19 is important in protecting the people from coronavirus infection and associated mortality and morbidity. Equitable access to safe and effective vaccines is critical in ending the COVID-19 pandemic. “Vaccine development takes a lot of time and demand for these vaccines exceeds the supply many times. Thus, it is important to monitor and ensure that this precious tool to address the pandemic should be used optimally and judiciously. COVID-19 vaccine is an essential public health commodity with global scarcity. Therefore, vaccine wastage must be reduced and kept to a minimum level which will further help vaccinate many people,” the ministry said in its statement.

It said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also time and again emphasised on ensuring minimum vaccine wastage, to ensure that the vaccine reaches the maximum number of people.

“Any reduction in wastage means inoculating more people and leads to strengthening the fight against COVID-19. Each dose saved means vaccinating one more person,” the statement said.

India is using the COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) with the inbuilt eVIN (Electronic Vaccine intelligence network) system, a digital platform, which not only registers the beneficiaries but also tracks the vaccines and facilitates real-time monitoring of storage temperatures across 29,000 cold chain points at the national, state, and district level. The current COVID-19 vaccines being used do not have an ‘open vial policy’ i.e., it has to be used within a stipulated time once the vial has been opened. The vaccinator is advised to mark the date and time of opening each vial and all open vaccine vials need to be used/discarded within 4 hours of opening, the statement said.

Further, all states and union territories have also been advised that each vaccination session is expected to cater to a at least of 100 beneficiaries, however, in the case of remote and sparsely populated areas, the state could organise a session for a lesser number of beneficiaries while ensuring that there is no vaccine wastage, the statement said.

A session may be planned only when adequate beneficiaries are available.

The post vaccination observation time is optimally utilized to guide the beneficiaries on COVID appropriate behaviour, any possible Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI), and where they could reach out in case of an adverse event. Under any immunization programme, proper micro-planning is essential to ensure that we not only optimally use the available resources but also vaccinate as many beneficiaries to improve coverage.

The States and Union Territories are regularly being guided on it, the statement said. Additionally, a regular review of the COVID-19 vaccination drive across all levels is being conducted to include analysis of vaccine wastage with a focus on identifying areas where such wastage is high so that prompt corrective measures are undertaken. Directions have also been given to the officials concerned and COVID-19 vaccination centre managers to efficiently plan vaccination sessions so as to keep the vaccine wastage rates at a minimum.

‘Working closely with states to address vaccine hesitancy’

Amid media reports alleging ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among health workers in rural areas, the Union Health Ministry said it is working closely with States and Union Territories to address the issue.

The central government has been supporting the efforts of States and Union Territories for an effective vaccination drive under the ‘Whole of Government’ approach since January 16 this year, it said.

There have been certain media reports alleging ‘vaccine hesitancy’ in rural areas among health workers, the Ministry stated.

“It is informed that vaccine hesitancy is a globally accepted phenomenon and should be addressed by scientifically studying and addressing the issue at the community level,” it said in a statement.

Keeping this in mind, a ‘COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Strategy’ covering details on vaccine hesitancy was shared with all States and UTs at the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

This strategy was also shared with mission directors of the National Health Missions of all states on January 25 as part of the orientation of state immunisation and IEC officers on COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Strategy.

All states and UTs are following the same and adopting the strategy as per the local requirement, the statement said.

Several IEC materials and prototypes for all media — print, social and electronic — have been prepared and shared with the states for suitable adaptation at their level.

The Union Health Ministry is working closely with all States and UTs in addressing the issue of vaccine hesitancy on a regular basis.

Further, it has communicated to all states and UTs to create awareness in tribal communities through IEC materials on COVID-19 vaccines and COVID appropriate behaviour, the statement added.

The ministry is also working in close coordination with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in this regard, it stated.

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