COVID-19: Union Health Ministry reiterates PM Modi's prescription of zero vaccine wastage

New Delhi: The government today asked all States and Union Territories to bring down vaccine wastage to less than one per cent. This life preserving instruction was given by Union Health Secretary in a video conference with Health Secretaries, State Mission Directors of National Health Mission and State Immunization officers, while reviewing preparedness for the April 1 vaccination drive for persons above 45 years regardless of morbidities.

The present national vaccine wastage is six per cent according to data of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently expressed his disappointment with vaccine wastage and called it a wastage of a person’s right.

The statistics are a cause of concern given the fact that India is witnessing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and many people are waiting to take the vaccine during the third phase of vaccination drive. As many as 53,480 new cases were registered in the last 24 hours with Maharashtra reporting the highest daily new cases at 27,918. India is the sixth worst hit country. The country's tally has soared to 12,149,335 and the toll from the deadly infection has jumped to 162,502.

“Regulary review vaccine wastage across all levels to minimise the same. Ensure timely utilisation of available stocks to avoid expiry of vaccines without usage. Timely updating of data of vaccine consumption to be ensured on COVIN & eVIN portals, “ said the Health Ministry in its online meeting.

On the issue of vaccination coverage of Health Care Workers and Front Line Workers, the government advised the States and UTs to ensure that only eligble beneficiares are targeted under these categories. They have been asked to archive incorrect or duplicate entries on the CoWIN platform, identify pockets of low vaccination coverage and ensure saturation of vaccination of these groups on priority.

The Ministry has asked all States and UTs to conduct regular reviews of vaccinations at private Covid Vaccination Centres with respect to their capacity utilisation.

According to a news video report on March 19 which estimated 6.5 per cent national wastage, over 23 lakh vaccine does have gone waste even as millions wait for their turn to receive the precautionary life saving jab.

Five States recorded highest wastage. Telangana reported 17.6 per cent vaccine wastage, followed by Andhra Pradesh (11.4 per cent). At the same time, there are States where vaccine wastage is less than the national average. Himachal Pradesh is the State with the lowest vaccine wastage (1.4 per cent) while Uttarakhand had a vaccine wastage of 1.6 per cent and the north-eastern State of Tripura recorded a vaccine wastage of 2.2 per cent.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had asked Chief Ministers to pay serious attention to the issue of vaccine wastage and aim to achieve zero wastage. “The main concern is the expiry date of the vaccine. We have to increase the number of vaccination centres, both in private and government facilities. If we the Centre work proactively, there will be a reduction in wastage of vaccine. There is also the issue of vaccine expiry date: the doses that have arrived first should be used be first.”

Modi also took note of over 10% vaccine wastage in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. “This is wastage of a person’s right and it is not good. States should work on targeting zero wastage and it will lead to good results.”

According to experts, it is important for vaccinators to coordinate the flow of beneficiaries, to control wastage. It is believed that wastage occurs during transportation, during cold chain point and at a vaccination sit— both at service and delivery levels. Vaccine wastage can occur in unopened vials and in opened vials. Wastage in unopened vials can occur due to several reasons: if the expiry date has been reached; if the vaccine is exposed to heat; if the vaccine has been frozen; breakage; missing inventory and theft; and while discarding, unused vials returned from the vaccination site. Wastage in opened vials can occur due to reasons like poor vaccine administration practices, suspected contamination, while discarding remaining doses at the end of the session; inability to draw the number of doses in a vial, submergence of opened vials in the water.

A senior Health Ministry officer was recently quoted as saying that the Centre has advised the States to mobilise people and not to open the vials if they don’t have 10 people. Another reason for vaccine wastage identified by the Centre is inadequate training as some vaccinators may end up drawing only nine doses against ten doses.

It was on March 26 that India put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine-maker, in order to meet domestic demand following an alarming rise in infections.

So far, 6.30 crore doses of corona vaccine have been administered in India since January 16 when healthcare and other frontline workers began to be vaccinated.

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