Centre seeks involvement of religious leaders to counter misinformation about COVID-19
New Delhi, Nov 26: The centre has asked the states to constitute block-level task forces to monitor COVID-19 vaccine roll-out and to maximise involvement of local influencers, including religious leaders, for countering misinformation and rumour-mongering regarding coronavirus immunisation.
According to the health ministry, the block task force would be tasked with resolving bottlenecks, thus decentralising planning and preparedness for vaccine introduction.
In the letter of November 24 to states and Union Territories, it said the block task force has to be chaired by the sub-divisional magistrate or tehsildar with the representation of government departments, development partners, NGOs, local influencers and religious leaders.
The ministry had last month stated that COVID-19 vaccine introduction will span over a year with multiple groups being included, "sequentially starting from healthcare workers", and sought constitution of committees at state and district levels for reviewing preparatory activities in terms of cold chain preparedness, operational planning, strategies for state-specific challenges in terms of geographical terrain among others.
"With an aim to further decentralize planning and preparedness for the roll-out of vaccine, Block Task Force (BTF) for COVlD-19 vaccine introduction also needs to be constituted," Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in the letter dated November 24.
According to the terms of references mentioned in the letter, the activities of the block task force would include monitoring the progress of database of beneficiaries to be shared with a district for upload on Co-WIN software, monitoring the progress on key activities such as microplanning, communication planning, cold chain and vaccine logistics planning and fixing accountability for each activity.
The activities would also include planning and mapping of vaccination sessions where healthcare workers will be inoculated in the first phase, identifying vaccinators to minimize disruption of routine immunization services and mapping of resources for verification of beneficiaries and overall coordination at session site.
The block task force will also ensure the supervision of COVID-19 vaccination sessions and implement communication plan while addressing the local context and needs to address rumour-mongering as well as vaccine eagerness.
"Maximizing use of local influencers (including religious leaders) for countering misinformation and ensure an adequate number of IEC material pertaining to COVDI-19 vaccination is displayed at prominent places and at session sites," the terms of reference stated.