The state government will store the vaccines at all Primary Health Centres, taluk and district hospitals for easy disbursal.

The vaccines for COVID-19 are expected to reach Bengaluru airport by Sunday, the Karnataka Health and Family Welfare Department said on Friday. According to state Health Department sources, 1,13,400 vials of the vaccine would arrive at the Kempegowda International Airport and an additional 25,800 vials would arrive at the airport in Belagavi by Sunday. The first phase of vaccines will be provided to frontline workers and the Health Department said that 6,35,986 healthcare workers registered themselves for the vaccination in the first phase on the Cowin app. Other than healthcare workers, police and Revenue Department officials with comorbidities will also be identified for vaccination, the official said.

“All PHCs and medical institutions will have to send back the used and unused vials to keep check. In Bengaluru, all the vaccines will be first brought to Anand Rao Circle from where the vaccine will be taken to all other centres. No private infrastructure will be used for logistical purposes for the first phase of vaccination,” a senior Health Department official said. 

According to the Health Department, as many as 24 lakh syringes will arrive in Karnataka, which are provided by the Union government. To store the vaccine vials and syringes, the state government has 10 walk-in coolers, four walk-in freezers, 3,201 ice-lined refrigerators (ILRs), 3,039 deep freezers, 3,312 cold boxes, 46,591 vaccine carriers and 2,25,749 ice packs across the 30 districts in the state. Health Department sources said that the government has ILRs with the capacity ranging between 50 litres to 200 litres with each litre having the capacity to store 287 doses of the vaccine. 

In addition, the Union government has provided 64 Large ILRs, with a storage capacity of 225 litres each. The state government is also awaiting the arrival of two walk-in coolers and one walk-in freezer from the Union government, Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar said. 

Karnataka also has 2,870 cold chain points spread across the 30 districts under the universal immunisation programme, which comprises 10% of the total number of such units in the country. “These cold chain points will be beneficial for logistical support,” the health department official added. 

The government has identified two primary storage facilities in Bengaluru and Belagavi for the disbursal of the vaccine to districts located in the northern and southern parts of the state. Apart from these two primary facilities, five regional storage facilities have been set up in Chitradurga, Mangaluru, Mysuru, Kalaburagi and Bagalkote districts in order to ensure that the vaccine disbursal occurs smoothly. 

“All the 30 districts have adequate number of ice-lined refrigerators and deep freezers to store vaccines. The cold chain points are located in district hospitals, medical colleges, taluk hospitals, community health centres, primary health centres to ensure that vaccines are available in all regions,” Minister Sudhakar said, while adding that the cold chain facilities will have adequate capacity to even store the polio vaccines along with COVID-19 vaccines. 

Health Department officials said that each district has been allocated insulated vans to supply vaccines to taluk hospitals, community health centres and primary health centres. 

Sources said that the state has requested the Union government to provide additional cold chain kits, deep freezers and freeze ice packs for transporting the vaccines from cold chain points as it would be required for the next phases of vaccine disbursal. 

Health Department officials said that the government is equipped to handle the logistics as it had implemented the measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in 2017. At the time, the state had received around 1.8 crore doses of the vaccine in just two months and the department had ensured its disbursal in a timely manner. “We have experience in managing storage and transportation of vaccines. Besides, we will have an electronic vaccine intelligence network at all cold chain points to monitor stocks,” the official said. 

However, health activists expressed apprehensions regarding the disbursal of Covaxin without adequate data regarding its side-effects. “Already a lot of regulations have been diluted given this is a pandemic but even then it is unacceptable that Bharat Biotech has presented no data of efficacy yet it has received emergency use authorization. Even in the Serum Institute vaccine has been tried out in populations outside the country and this is the level of efficacy. But the Indian arm where 7,500 Indian participants were given the vaccine, that data has not been disclosed. Both these incidents will not give the people any confidence as the regulators have allowed political compulsions  to override the scientific aspects,” said Akhila Vasan a health activist with Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali. 

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