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Preparing workforce for COVID vaccination

Synopsis:India is near vaccine roll out, but it lacks trained healthcare workers for the job.

 

Introduction  

The permission of two COVID-19 vaccinats for emergency use is nearing. There is now hope of an end to the pandemic. But for the administration of vaccination and treatment properly and skillfully, a trained and effective workforce is required. 

Present strength of healthcare workers in India 

  • In India, over 4,00,000 frontline workers have been trained to respond to COVID-19. 
  • However, this includes people with no prior experience also. Thousands have been trained for (1) contact tracing, (2) quarantine strategies, (3) ventilator management, (4) personal protective equipment, and (5) psychological issues. 

In this context, Project Echo provides a cost effective way if ncreasing our workforce – both number wise and qualitywise.

What is project ECHO? 

India was a recipient of an effective global innovation called Project ECHO.  

  • ECHO is a low-cost way out for growing the size of health workers in underserved communities to offer patients with the best possible care and facilities.  
  • ECHO was utilised as a strategy for treating Hepatitis C in the beginning but now is being used for newly trained experts in HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, addiction, mental health, and many other conditions. 
  • Under this project, health workers, nurses and doctors are trained through video conferencing technology. They learn speciality care from subject matter experts and from each other’s community informed knowledge.  
  • ECHO provides the ability to spread healthcare workers in the most remote areas of the country and give them training similar to what a healthcare worker in one of our largest cities would receive. 

What needs to be done before the vaccine arrives? 

India is led by the Serum Institute of India which has the largest manufacturing capacity in the world. However, certain aspects need to be figured out and planned before the COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available: 

  • Firstly, real skills need to be cultivated for planning out the following: 
    • Delivery system of these vaccines needs to be figured out. 
    • Storage and handling of the vaccines. 
    • India needs to overcome cultural and religious obstacles for those who are unwilling to accept a vaccine. 
    • People need to be counselled about the side-effects of the vaccine. 
  • Secondly, more trained health experts are required to support vaccine treatment. 
  • Thirdly, further preparation of the ECHO model can be done to identify new healthcare workers who can be trained to be COVID-19 experts.
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