By Sumit Khanna
AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Some Indian states on Monday began a trial run of COVID-19 vaccine delivery systems, with health authorities checking everything from their technology platforms to the storage infrastructure that will be required to inoculate millions.
India wants to deliver 600 million coronavirus shots in the next six to eight months starting in January, with emergency use approval for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine expected within days.
The country's drug regulator is also considering similar approvals for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and another developed by India's Bharat Biotech.
"The exercise is basically a mock drill for our healthcare workers on how to run the whole vaccination process and system," Jaiprakash Shivahare, the commissioner for health in the western state of Gujarat, told Reuters.
State health officials had set up 19 vaccination centres, each with 25 dummy beneficiaries played by health workers, who would help test out the entire inoculation sequence, including online monitoring systems, Shivahare said.
"The cold chain infrastructure for distribution of the vaccine is also being tested as a part of the dry run," he said.
In the eastern state of Assam, mock drills and training were carried out in two districts, where vaccinators were given instructions on storing and administering the shots.
"In the first phase, we shall be administering the vaccine only to healthcare workers," Assam's junior health minister Pijush Hazarika said.
India has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world after the United States, and it has recorded 147,901 deaths so far.
On Monday, the federal health ministry reported a daily increase of a little over 20,000 infections, taking the country's total so far to 10.2 million cases.
(Additional Reporting by Zarir Hussain in GUWAHATI, Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Hugh Lawson)