Covid-19 Vaccines reach Nagaland; Health Department says, ‘it is safe’

An official holds up a vial of the  COVID-19 vaccine at the cold storage unit in the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, Kohima on January 14. (Morung Photo)
An official holds up a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine at the cold storage unit in the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, Kohima on January 14. (Morung Photo)

Morung Express News
Kohima | January 14

With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Nagaland on January 14, the State is all set to begin its vaccination programme. However, with misconceptions and rumours surrounding the vaccines on social media, health officials from the Directorate of Health & Family Welfare assured that the vaccination is safe and effective.

26,500 doses of the Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India reached Dimapur airport at around 1:30pm on January 14. 

Following the India-wide launching of COVID-19 vaccination by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nagaland will conduct the vaccination drive following the launching programme on January 16 in nine district hospitals. Kiphire and Longleng, however, will have to wait a bit due to connectivity issues.

The Nagaland Chief Minister is set to launch the vaccine roll out at the NHAK while other legislators will do the same in respective districts.

A total of 36,845 beneficiaries have registered for the COVID-19 vaccine comprising of 760 health workers from central institutes; 19,559 state health workers; and 16,526 frontline workers.

The vaccination will be carried out in a phase wise manner covering healthcare workers, frontline workers and prioritised age groups. It was informed that the vaccine is not advisable for people who are 18 years of age and below since the vaccine trials were not tested on people belonging to this age group.

‘Vaccine is safe’
Speaking at a media sensitisation workshop on COVID-19 vaccination this afternoon at Hotel Vivor, Kohima, Principal Director, Health & Family Welfare, Dr Vizolie Suokhrie dismissed rumours on social media fomenting fear among the people. 

Dr Soukhrie said that vaccine development is no easy job and that safety and efficacy are top most priorities. He urged people not to fall prey to rumours. 

The 1st phase of the vaccination drive will cover 12,000 health care service providers and other workers in health care settings including ICDS workers (both government and private sector). The 2nd phase will include frontline workers including State and Central security personnel, Home Guards and civil defence organisations, disaster management volunteers and municipal workers. These two phases will be free of cost.

The 3rd and 4th phases will cover prioritised age groups (above 50 years and persons below 50 years with associated comorbidities). The Principal Director informed that it remains to be seen whether these two phases will be free or at a subsidised rate. 

The target, he maintained, is to reach all citizens of the State. 

Dr Suokhrie said that there are ample preservative facilities and cold chain storages in the State, adding that the State has adequate transportation facilities with proper security arrangements. 

Earlier, receiving the vaccine consignment in Dimapur, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Mereninla Senlem stated that Nagaland has “very good storage facilities” maintaining the required 2 to 8 degree Celsius storage temperature.

Principal Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, Dr Amardeep Singh  Bhatia meanwhile informed that preparations have been undertaken as per the operational guidelines given by the Government of India. 

As the beneficiaries lists have been uploaded in the COWIN portal, selection will be made as part of session planning in each of the districts, said Bhatia. He added that the vaccination process would be closely monitored and security would be deployed at each site to prevent wastage. 

Continue COVID safety measures
UNICEF Consultant for Nagaland, Dr Longri Kichu meanwhile stated that the COVID-19 vaccine “is not a miracle but to shorten the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and to reduce mortality.”

Dr Kichu assured that the Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum institute of India and in collaboration with the Oxford – Astrazeneca project has gone through all pre-clinical and clinical stages as with any other vaccine development and has been evaluated to be very safe for use in the general population by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). 

The vaccine, he maintained has been found to have more than 70% efficacy from the clinical trials with good levels of immunogenicity (which means that it creates sufficient antibodies against COVID-19) and reportedly scientists have maintained that the vaccine will be efficacious even with the new strains. 

He further explained that the vaccine uses the old and tested method of using viral vectors which has been found to be very effective with other vaccines. The vaccine is already in use in the United Kingdom among the general population.

Dr Kichu informed that two doses 28 days apart will be administered in the arm for every beneficiary. However, he explained that maximum protection will be only after 14 days from the second dose or 42 days after the first dose. As such, he urged people to continue following all COVID-19 safety measures even after receiving the vaccine.