The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) will play a major role in the COVID-19 vaccination programme of the country, even as their various healthcare facilities continue to treat people infected with the virus, ITBP Director General SS Deswal said.
The government's plan for the distribution and use of the vaccine against COVID-19 is ready, he said.
An effective vaccine against the coronavirus is keenly awaited across the globe. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said India is hosting clinical trials for all major vaccines, and about 20 of them are in different stages of development.
Mr Deswal told PTI in an interview that the central security forces including the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are prepared to assist the government in this mega drive as they have in the past few months by treating patients.
"The government has already made a plan for the distribution and use of the vaccine throughout the country and the CAPFs have a role in it by the way of vaccination of own troops, their families as well as helping out people," he said.
"The scheme is already in place. The government is waiting for the vaccine, and its distribution and use will not be a problem since a plan has already been laid out," he added.
The forces will undertake all measures to assist the government in the vaccination drive and will render any task that is given to them, Mr Deswal said.
The CAPFs include BSF, CRPF, CISF and SSB apart from two other central forces NDRF and NSG.
These forces have a combined strength of about 10 lakh and are deployed for a variety of internal security duties and guarding the country's borders.
A senior official privy to the vaccine plan said the CAPFs will be directed to hold camps and help local government authorities in the identification of beneficiaries for the drive once it is rolled out.
The about 90,000-personnel strong ITBP is credited with creating the first quarantine centre for COVID-19 in southwest Delhi's Chhawla area in January. Indian citizens and nationals of other countries evacuated from Wuhan in China, where the outbreak first emerged, were lodged at the centre.
The border force, primarily tasked with guarding the 3,488-kms long Line of Actual Control with China, is at present running three such large facilities in the National Capital Region (NCR) including the 10,000-bed Sardar Patel COVID Care Centre in Delhi's Chhatarpur area and a coronavirus Referral Hospital for police personnel in Greater Noida.
"We started with the establishment of the Chhawla quarantine centre which was initially established for evacuees from Wuhan and students, citizens and children from India and other countries were accommodated here," Mr Deswal said.
"At that stage, there was very less information about the disease and it was very scary as per information coming from abroad... but the centre went very well and this facility is continuing. We are now hosting our own men here, who are in transit or who come back from leave, for quarantine," he said.
The facility hosted and treated over 1,200 people including nationals of nine other countries.
The ITBP chief said when Delhi was facing a shortage of beds for COVID-19 patients, the Union home ministry asked it to establish the Sardar Patel facility in the southern part of the national capital.
"It has treated over 10,700 patients from the national capital region till now. It is a zero expenditure hospital and patients from every strata of the society can come here," Mr Deswal said.
A team of ITBP doctors and paramedics runs the centre along with Delhi government officials and volunteers of the Radha Soami Beas.
The third such facility, Mr Deswal said, is the Referral Hospital in Greater Noida which has been "converted" into a COVID hospital.
"It has treated more than 2,000 police personnel, their relatives, family members, retirees of various forces and their families and officials from the Union home ministry.
"This facility has a very good success rate... there have been only two patient deaths who suffered from comorbid conditions," he said.
Mr Deswal said these three facilities will "continue to function as long as it is required".
"Apart from these facilities, the network of our hospitals all across the country is treating coronavirus patients and we have linked these centres with Ayushman Bharat," he said.
Officials in various CAPFs said about 75-80 doctors and over 100 paramedics from various central forces will soon be sent to Delhi after Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday reviewed the situation in the city arising out of the spurt in COVID-19 cases.