COVID-19: All about vaccine wastage and how J&K is dealing with it
Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir has recorded a vaccine wastage of 6.6 percent, which is above the national average of 6.5 percent.
Official figures reveal that 4.9 lakh people including healthcare workers, frontline workers, and citizens above 60 years of age have been inoculated in Jammu and Kashmir so far.
The UT has received more than 17.5 lakh doses of Covishield of which six lakh doses have been given to the security forces.
Figures released by the Centre reveal that more than 6.6 percent of vaccine doses have been wasted in Jammu and Kashmir, which is .1 percent more than the national average.
The Centre has now urged states to minimize vaccine wastage as it poses a health risk.
J&K government has issued tougher guidelines to avoid wastage. All vaccinators have been asked not to open the vial until nine beneficiaries show up at planned vaccination sites.
State Immunization Officer, Jammu and Kashmir, Dr. Qazi Haroon maintained that they are aware of the vaccine wastage in Union Territory.
“We now plan sessions beforehand so that people are already in the session sites through advocacy leading to minimized wastage. Moreover, we have categorically told them not to open the vial until eight to nine beneficiaries show up,” he told The Kashmir Monitor.
He however pointed out that the wastage percentage with regard to J&K is still below 10 percent.
“There are some states where the percentage exceeds 10 percent. On the contrary, our vaccine wastage is under control. Besides, we are imparting continuous rigorous training to our vaccinators to ensure minimum wastage,” he said.
Dr. Qazi noted that there is a proper mechanism of biomedical waste management in place at all sessions and used vials are disposed of.
“We have a separate waste management in place and the waste is segregated properly through color-coded dustbins before disposal,” he said.
It is worth mentioning that vaccine wastage is of two types — close and open vial wastage. Closed vial wastage is a result of improper cold chain and inventory management. Open vial wastage, on the other hand, occurs where health workers are forced to discard unused doses from multi-dose vials.
According to operational guidelines, each vaccination session is expected to cater to a maximum of 100 beneficiaries. However, in remote and sparsely populated areas, states can organize sessions for a lesser number of beneficiaries while ensuring that there is no vaccine wastage. “If the number of beneficiaries at a session is less, it is clubbed with other sessions,” the guidelines said.
In the case of the Covishield vaccine, if the vial contains doses for 10 people but fewer shows up, the rest goes waste.
“This is because once a Covishield vaccine vial is opened, doses need to be administered within four hours, making it vital for health workers to coordinate the flow of recipients. It is one of the primary reasons for the vaccine wastage,” a senior health official said.
The official said the vaccine wastage is also being tracked through Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN). “Through, this application, we keep the record of Covishield in Jammu and Kashmir. For example, we record how many doses we receive every day and per day utilization,” the official said.
The official said they have made it clear that the vial should be opened when people show up. “However, in case, vials are opened, we resort to public address systems and make announcements in the mosque. So, that they motivate other people to come for vaccination,” he said.
Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education, Jammu and Kashmir, Atal Dullo said the response towards vaccination in Kashmir is still in the nascent stage due to lack of awareness. “With more participation, the vaccine wastage percentage will drop considerably,” he said.