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Dilip Kumar

Bhubaneswar: Even as the race of potential vaccine for Covid-19 is approaching the last lap, the cold-chain infrastructure is likely to emerge as biggest hurdle for Odisha, say experts.

The State government has started a road map in full swing for procurement, preservation and distribution of the vaccine as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reviewed the progress of the Covid- 19 vaccine and its roll out strategy.

"We are preparing the blueprint in strict adherence to the central government's guidelines. Follow up action will be taken if any further communication is received from the Centre," Odisha Health Minister Naba Das said.

Health experts, however, opine that the logistic needs and cold chain infrastructure could act as major test for the government as most of the vaccines developed by the foreign countries require intense cold storage requirements for their preservation before timely distribution for vaccination.

Vaccines for other disease usually require only two to eight degree centigrade for storage while Covid-19 vaccine such as the ones developed by Moderna and Pfizer need minus 20 degree centigrade and minus 70 degree centigrade temperature respectively for preservation.

"Even in the child and pregnant woman immunisation programme, there is a deficit in the logistic requirement of the cold chain. But, the requirement for cold storage facilities with minus 70 degree centigrade may turn out to be challenge for us," said Dr E Venkat Rao, principal investigator of COVAXIN  human trial in Odisha.

Despite such hurdles in vaccine delivery programme, India's own COVAXIN has brought a big relief as it requires only two to three degree Centigrade temperature unlike the foreign vaccines, he added.

Amid all these hic-ups, the State will have to wait till September, 2021 for availability of vaccine for all, said Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray, chief of World Health Organisation (Odisha Wing).

Vaccine might arrive in Odisha by February or March 2021, but, to cover the entire community, it may take more time and we will have to wait till September," Ray added.

It may be noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday held a review meeting with the health experts and top officials of NITI Ayog on the strategies to make the vaccine accessible to masses.

He discussed important issues related to the progress of vaccine development, regulatory approvals and procurement.

Sources said, many vaccines are in advanced stages of trials and they have reported over 90 per cent efficacy. As many as five vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which four are in Phase II/III and one is in Phase-I/II.

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