In a communication to the Union education ministry, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan has stressed the need to address public expectations, anticipation as well as “any hesitancy” through a concerted public outreach, and sought the support of university networks, online talk platforms and any leverage points of large footfalls to drive and support a vaccine campaign.
In a swiftly evolving scenario of vaccine development and rollout, one of the key challenges is to ensure that the billion plus population of India gets “factually correct information and updates on vaccine benefits” and rollout progress, he wrote in the communication dated January 5.
“It is critical to build public confidence regarding vaccine safety and address fears over any adverse events, and at the same time to continue stress on strict public adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour,” the health secretary wrote.
The government needs to build an environment of “universal vaccine acceptability” through active collaboration and the key to it will be an “effective communication plan” to disseminate information at all levels, from state to district, block, village and the family level, he has said in communications to Secretaries of various ministries.
The health ministry has requested that the huge network of field networks including educational institutes to collaborate with it to ensure ‘maximum outreach’ across all states and union territories to disseminate special information, education and communication (IEC) material on the vaccine.
It has prepared the IEC material and shared them with the education ministry for vaccine advocacy campaign. The health ministry is learnt to have written to several other stakeholder ministries as well to help disseminate the message in various groups and communities.
The ministry has also reinforced its readiness for the rollout of the vaccination programme but pointed out that initially the vaccine will be available in limited stocks. As advised by the National Expert Group on Vaccine administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), the first prioritisation in initial phases will be for healthcare and frontline workers, persons aged 50 years and above, and those below 50 years of age but with comorbid conditions.
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