New Delhi: Two weeks into Covid-19 vaccinations dry runs state health officials said their biggest challenge was not crowd management, vaccine storage or transportation but updating the data of those mock vaccinated on the Union health ministry mobile application CoWIN (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network) due to patchy internet connectivity.

After eight districts in four states conducted the first dry run on December 28 and 29, an all-country dry run was carried out a day before the national drug controller cleared two coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines on January 3.

Another all-India dry run of mass immunisation will take place in all districts over Thursday and Friday.

Earlier this week, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a media briefing that the actual vaccination drive would take place around 10 days after the regulatory approvals. Based on that, mass immunisation with the approved vaccines is expected to take place around January 13.

However, the lack of proper internet connectivity may throw a spanner in the works.

The Centre has mandated that the details of everyone receiving the vaccine must be uploaded on the CoWIN app after they have been verified and approved. The app updates the information in real time and any glitch in the process means that the vaccine would not be released.

“We faced connectivity issues at certain locations because of which the time taken to administer the vaccine was very high,” said a UP government official who did not wish to be named.

The state conducted a dry run on Tuesday at six sites in all the 74 districts (12 in the state capital) to assess the preparedness for administering the vaccine against the coronavirus disease.

Goa Health Secretary Amit Satija on Wednesday admitted that issues of connectivity affected the dry run that took place in the state on January 2.

Uttarakhand chief secretary Om Prakash said another dry run will be conducted in 10 booths of every district on January 8. “Internet connectivity should be ensured at vaccination sites and awareness about the mock run would be created like it is done for elections,” he said.

In Bihar, district administration also faced a sudden rush of health workers who thought that the real vaccine was being administered. “They went back after they were convinced that it was only a dry run and they would be informed through SMS about the real vaccination,” said a government official not willing to be named.

State health departments are also required to record the time taken for transportation of the vaccine from the nodal office to district headquarters and thereon to health centres designated for the vaccination drive.

A Bihar health department assessment found that many auxiliary nursing midwives (ANMs), engaged in the vaccination programme, were not aware of how to handle smartphones or tablets they were provided to upload the data from.

“Our district immunisation officers will now train the ANMs for uploading the data,” said Manoj Kumar, executive director Bihar Health Society and also the nodal officer for the vaccination programme in Bihar.

Officials in states such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Kerala, West Bengal, Punjab and Haryana said they faced no major problem during first dry run conducted earlier this week. .

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