In a step towards ensuring access to vaccination of eligible populations, the Andhra Pradesh government is planning to make the COVID-19 vaccine available at the village and ward secretariat level. An action plan to conduct vaccination drives at the secretariats, apart from the existing vaccine session sites, has been formulated and is likely to be implemented from Thursday, according to Dr Srihari, Joint Director of Andhra Pradesh Immunisation Program.
The plan was implemented on a pilot basis on Saturday in four centres of two districts — Solasa and Kaza villages in Guntur and Chillakallu and Chandragudem villages in Krishna — and around 1400 people were vaccinated successfully, Dr Srihari said. The secretariats were set up by the YSRCP government for last-mile delivery of welfare schemes through village and ward volunteers. Speaking about the plans to promote access to the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly in rural areas, Dr Srihari said, “From 48 hours before the scheduled vaccination time, secretariat and health staff will explain everything about the vaccine to beneficiaries by sharing information, giving out pamphlets etc. Beneficiaries will be mobilised by volunteers.”
A COVID instant order on conducting vaccination drives at the secretariat level said that while vaccination is being done for those who are eligible (all persons aged above 60 years, and persons aged between 45-59 years with co-morbidities) at all government health facilities from March 1, “the vaccination to target groups is not as per the expected level.”
As of Monday, a total of 1.21 lakh people in Andhra Pradesh have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 9,545 people have received the second dose. In light of rising COVID-19 cases across the country, the Andhra government has also decided to carry out a 15-day campaign, from March 24 to April 7, to create awareness on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and the importance of vaccination to the eligible age groups.
Vaccination will henceforth be conducted at village secretariats, which will act as satellite CVCs (COVID-19 Vaccination Centres) of the nearby PHC (Primary Health Centres), according to the COVID instant order. The senior-most medical officer of every PHC will appoint a nodal officer for each secretariat within their PHC limits, and identify a suitable place for vaccination, with power supply, wireless internet connectivity, seating arrangements, bed, ambulance, AEFI (Adverse Event Following Immunisation) kit, as well as space for counters to issue medical certificates (to persons with co-morbidities), register in CoWIN, conduct vaccination, and keep beneficiaries under observation. These counters will be managed by the secretariat staff.
To avoid wastage of vaccine, a vial with 10 or 20 doses of vaccine will be opened only when those many beneficiaries are present. In case fewer people turn up, the medical officer will have to mobilise enough people before opening the vial. Beneficiaries will include health care and frontline workers who have missed their first dose or are due for a second dose.
The medical officer will monitor the vaccination process and will have to stay back for two hours after it ends to look out for AEFI cases.
Two days prior to the day of vaccination, the list of eligible persons to be vaccinated on that day will be compiled by the nodal officer, which will be verified by ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activist) and ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) in the field through house visits. One day before vaccination, health officials will be required to conduct door-to-door visits, as well as village-level meetings involving public representatives, village/ward leaders, SHGs, ASHAs and ANMs, to communicate the date of vaccination to the beneficiaries. According to Dr Srihari, vaccination at the secretariat level is likely to begin from Thursday, after a review meeting with Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy where the details of implementation will be finalised.
The Union government on Tuesday announced that all those above 45 years of age can get vaccinated from April 1.
In Andhra Pradesh, a total of 492 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the 24-hour period ending at 9 am on Tuesday, after testing 33,634 samples. Since January, the number of cases recorded in a day had remained under 300, before gradually increasing again over the past few days.
As a precautionary measure, the state government has declared half days for school students starting from April 1. The Endowments Department has also issued orders to stop annadanam in temple premises and to instead distribute the offerings in the form of food packets to devotees.