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India may mobilise pharmacists to administer vaccine

India is likely to begin the first round of vaccination for health care and essential services workers around January. In the second round, it may mobilise pharmacists to administer the vaccine, said government sources.

“The first round of vaccines are likely to be given to health care workers. There are around 7 million health care workers, but we are considering a number of around 10 million on the upper side. As for essential services workers like police personnel, municipality workers, even the military, etc, we are estimating them to be around 20 million or so. Put together, these 30 million people are likely to get the first shot of the vaccine around January or so,” said sources.

The person added that India had enough trained vaccinators — staff with experience gained from the universal immunisation programme — to administer the shot to the first 30 million.

But, in the second phase, many more vaccinators will be needed. “By June, the target is to vaccinate 300 million people and we will need to mobilise the resources of final-year MBBS and nursing students, apart from the auxiliary nurse midwife workforce as well as a batch of multipurpose male health care workers, and also nurses,” the source added.

The government is also evaluating the option of roping in pharmacists, who are already reasonably trained to administer an injection, in the second phase. Pharmacies also have refrigerators, which will be useful if they are used as end-points or sites for vaccine delivery.

“We want the Covid-19 vaccine drive to be a mass movement and we would need participation from all walks of life. Pharmacists, too, are likely to be roped in,” said the official in New Delhi.

India has around 800,000 pharmacies. If asked to participate, they are likely to be enthusiastic. Jagannath Shinde, chairman, All Indian Origin Chemists & Distributors, said that pharmacists are already training people to administer insulin injections.

“They are trained to administer a basic injection. We can plan to have refresher courses for the pharmacists and select a set of pharmacies in every city which would administer the Covid-19 vaccine,” said Shinde.

Current regulations don’t allow pharmacists to administer vaccines. If the government wishes to enlist them, it may decide to amend the rules.

As the government goes about amassing a vast army of trained vaccinators it will need, one organisation that may play a role is the Healthcare Sector Skill Council, a certifying organisation under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. It conducts training and certification courses for recognising practical learning by health care workers.

Once health care workers have been trained and certified, they will be eligible to administer vaccines as general duty assistants.

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In the private sector, the biggest private hospital chain, Apollo Group, is also working with the council to get its expert pharmacists certified — and its medical staff trained — as part of its efforts to build the vaccine infrastructure it will need for the vaccine.

Apollo has said it will follow government guidelines and only use trained pharmacists for administering the vaccine, if the government gives the go-ahead.

Apollo Group’s Executive Vice-Chairperson Shobana Kamineni said that nearly 10,000 Apollo employees will be stationed at Apollo centres to administer the vaccine.

Some 6,000 nurses and 1,000 doctors have already been trained. The rest are going through a certification programme. Each professional will be able to inoculate 100 people a day.

Apollo Group has been identifying and shortlisting employees from different segments in order to create a team that will have the certification and expertise to administer the shot.

“We are getting over 3,000 of our pharmacists trained and will follow the government guidelines on vaccination regulations for Covid-19 to make sure we have the required capacity and compliance for vaccination for the people of India in time,” said Kamineni. – Business Standard