New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Union Health Ministry is all set to start world's largest inoculation drive against the novel coronavirus from January 16, with priority being given to healthcare staff and frontline workers in the first phase of vaccination.

The Health Ministry has also issued guidelines for the vaccination drive. In its guidelines to the states and union territories (UTs), the Health Ministry has said that each vaccine vial, which will contain 10 doses, will have to be used within four hours of opening.

According to a media report, the non-availability of vaccine vial monitors (VVMs) due to coronavirus pandemic has forced the government to do away with the open vial policy. The VVMs display key factors, including the storage temperature, that allows stockpiling and transportation of a vaccine for a longer time.

"As there will be no VVMs and expiry date on the vial of the vaccine that will be supplied, cold chain maintenance will be of prime importance... Open vial policy will not be applicable and therefore the vaccination office should mark date and time of opening vial, all open vials need to be discarded after four hours of opening or at the end of the session," the Health Ministry said, as reported by The Times of India.

However, experts feel that this could lead to wastage of vaccines because only 100 people will be administered a vaccine shot at a vaccine site on a day. They say that without VVMs, it is difficult to check whether the required temperature for storage is being maintained.

The DCGI had given its nod to Bharat Biotech's 'Covaxin' and Oxford-AstraZeneca's 'Covishield' earlier this month for emergency authorisation use in India. Following DCGI's nod, the central government said that vaccination drive will begin from January 16.

Ahead of the beginning of the vaccination drive, PM Modi will hold a meeting on Monday with all the chief ministers and representatives of all states and union territories (UTs) to discuss the COVID-19 situation in the state. The Prime Minister had also held a meeting with officials from all states and UTs on Saturday to review COVID-19 status in the country.

The central government has also conducted two nationwide dry run to assess the preparedness for COVID-19 vaccination drive across the country.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta