The central government has asked states and union territories (UTs) to form committees for coordination of the coronavirus vaccination drive to ensure minimal disruptions in other routine healthcare services. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter to states and union territories, has suggested setting up of a state steering committee (SSC) chaired by the chief secretary, a state task force (STF) led by Additional Chief Secretary or principal secretary (health), and a district task force (DTF) to be headed by the district magistrate.
These committees would also be responsible for early tracking of social media to dispel rumours that could impact the community acceptance of COVID-19 inoculation. The terms of references also state that SSC should meet at least once a month, STF once a fortnight, and DTF once a week.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), which has sought the constitution of committees at state and district levels, said that COVID-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included "sequentially starting from health care workers".
MoHFW added that these committees will review preparatory activities like cold chain preparedness, operational planning, strategies for state-specific challenges in terms of geographical terrain and hard-to-reach areas, etc.
State steering committee's role
As per the government's statement, the SSC will ensure active involvement of all departments concerned and devise innovative strategies for improving community engagement ('Jan Bhagidaari') for improved coverage of the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.
The statement reads, "Ensure early tracking of social media and other platforms for possible misinformation and rumours around COVID-19 vaccine that could impact the community acceptance for the vaccine."
The SSC will also have to institute a reward/recognition mechanism for the achievement of the best performing district/block/urban ward and more.
"The COVID-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included sequentially starting from HCWs. Therefore, it is important to create strong advisory and coordination mechanism at state and district level to guide the process of COVID-19 vaccine introduction while ensuring minimal disruption of other routine health care services including immunisation," the statement added.
State task force's role
The activities which will be conducted by the STF are providing guidance, including funding and operational guidelines, fixing timelines for districts to plan and implement COVID-19 vaccine introduction whenever a vaccine is made available.
The STF will also identify vaccinators across both government and private sectors in order to minimise the disruption of immunisation services.
District task force's role
The DTF will monitor the progress of the database of beneficiaries on COVID-19 vaccination, ensure training of all concerned HR on COVID-19 vaccination Beneficiary Management system, monitor progress on key activities like - microplanning, communication planning, cold chain and vaccine logistics planning.
The DTF will also develop a robust communication planning at all levels to "address rumour-mongering as well as vaccine eagerness", track blocks and urban areas for adherence to timelines for various activities required for the introduction of COVID-19 vaccine, besides ensuring timely disbursal of funds at all levels and sharing feedback at the state level for review.