The Union government turned down Karnataka’s request to set up COVID-19 vaccination centres (CVCs), outside of the health facilities that are already available, on March 17. The Karnataka government had written a letter on March 14, requesting permission from the Union government to set up CVCs at old age homes, long-term care facilities, apartment complexes and identified polling booths, in hard-to-reach villages, to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine coverage among the elderly.
In a letter to Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary (Health and Family Welfare), dated March 17, Vandana Gurnani, Union Additional Secretary and mission director, National Health Mission (NHM) said that any facility providing COVID-19 vaccination needed to meet four critical criteria to provide the vaccination safely.
This means the CVCs would have to have adequate space for vaccination (waiting area/room, vaccination room, observation room), adequate cold chain arrangements for vaccine storage, adequate vaccinators and support staff and adequate arrangements for the management of Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI).
The letter also added, “These facilities would then also need to be registered on Co-WIN to enable session planning, reporting of AEFI and allocation of vaccines.”
It further said that other facilities empanelled under the State Health Schemes could be registered on Co-WIN and would make COVID-19 vaccination services more accessible to the target population, with special consideration for the elderly. And advised that, “the state should consider limiting the vaccination services to health facilities as permitted by the Centre.”
This response has however made representatives of apartment managements and old age homes unhappy. “If vaccination could be done at apartments and old age homes it would definitely have accelerated the process,” said Vishnu Gattupalli, governing council member of Bangalore Apartment Federation (BAF) and president of Trifecta Starlight Apartment. “Many senior citizens prefer not to go to hospitals to avoid crowds, and those who are bedridden or have difficulty walking have trouble getting to a vaccination centre.”