Barring the approval of a coronavirus vaccine, a two-day mock drill of the vaccination process held in four states shows India is ready to start inoculating its people at the forefront of its war against COVID-19.
"All the four participating states are satisfied with systems put in place for COVID-19 vaccination process," the Health Ministry said in a statement issued on Tuesday - last day of the dry-run when Joint Secretary (Public Health) also reviewed field feedback from day 1 through video conferencing with state and district programme officers.
"All states expressed satisfaction in terms of the operational approach and use of IT platform to ensure transparency and effective monitoring of vaccination processes expected to cover a large number of people across the country," the Ministry said.
However, the states have given "additional suggestions on IT platform... for further enhancement of Co-WIN" app that identifies beneficiaries.
"Detailed insights and feedback obtained will help enrich the operational guidelines and IT platform, and will strengthen the COVID-19 vaccination roll out plan," the ministry said.
The dry run was initiated on Monday in two districts each in four states across zones - Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat.
The exercise was aimed at end-to-end testing of adverse-effect management, IT systems including field implementation of Co-WIN app, database management, checking of storage and transportation facilities, deployment of vaccination team, and site management, among other things.
A total of 2,360 training sessions have been held so far, and 7,000 officials have been trained, including medical officers and vaccinators.
Earlier this month, Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Pfizer had applied to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), seeking emergency use authorisation for their COVID-19 vaccines.
Though none of the vaccine candidates have received approval so far, according to SII's Adar Poonawalla, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured by SII could get a clearance in India after UK okays its use expected by "December end of early January".
He has assured that the drug maker - world's largest by volume of doses produced - would give the "first 50 million doses to India", allaying fears of a shortage.
The developments come in the backdrop of a new, more viral mutation of the novel coronavirus - first detected in the UK - having been seen in at least six travellers from the country who tested positive on arrival in India.
Vaccines developed so far, however, are likely to remain effective as experts said 90 per cent of the virus structure is still the same. Inoculants are now being seen as the only way to halt, or even slow, a pandemic that has cost the world 17 lakh lives - 1.48 lakh in India - since its outbreak in China's Wuhan late last year, and put the world in a series of lockdowns.
India is expected to inoculate 30 crore healthcare and frontline workers and people in the vulnerable group in phase 1 of vaccination.