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Union Health Minister blames states for poor COVID vaccination efforts

by Raju Vernekar
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By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, April 08:

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has reiterated that the COVID vaccination will be done only as per priority groups to reduce mortality among the vulnerable people, even as he has blamed certain states for their poor vaccination efforts.
The vaccination is now open to everyone above the age of 45 years and it is completely free of cost for anyone getting vaccinated in government medical facilities, Dr. Vardhan stated.
It is to be noted here that Indian Medical Association(IMA) recently demanded that all above 18 years of age be vaccinated, while Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray suggested that the vaccination be made available to the people above 25 years.
Maharashtra CM receives second jab
Thackeray, Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, Shiv Sena secretary Milind Narvekar and Meena Patankar from Thackeray family received the second dose of COVID vaccine at Government J J Hospital in South Central Mumbai on Thursday. The Maharashtra has vaccinated over 65 lakh people till now and is planning to vaccinate 6 to 7 lakhs per day and has asked for more dosages from the centre, as per the statement by Thackeray.
However Vardhan in a statement on Wednesday, said that when states ask to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens. But the facts are altogether different.
Maharashtra has vaccinated just 86% of health workers with first dose. The equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72% and 64%. On the other hand, 10 Indian states/UTs have done more than 90%. Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41% of healthcare workers with second dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 41% and 27%. There are 12 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 60%.
Among frontline workers, Maharashtra has vaccinated only 73% with first dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 71% and 65%. There are 5 Indian states/UTs that have already done more than 85%. Vaccination of frontline workers with second does for Maharashtra is at 41% For Delhi and Punjab, these numbers are 22% and 20%. There are 6 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 45%. When it comes to senior citizens, Maharashtra has vaccinated just 25%, Delhi has vaccinated 30% & Punjab has vaccinated only 13%. There are 4 states/UTs that have already vaccinated more than 50%.
Doesn’t it seem evident that these states are trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just shifting the goal-posts? Politicizing such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better, Dr Vardhan stated. However Dr Vardhan has neither mentioned about the names of the states which have achieved the target nor disclosed the details of their population and their size.
“Vaccine supplies are being monitored on a real-time basis, and state governments are being apprised regularly about it. Allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless. Throughout the last year, as the Health Minister of India, I have been a witness to the casual approach of Maharashtra Government in battling the virus. The lackadaisical attitude of the state government has singularly bogged down the entire country’s efforts to fight the virus. Today, Maharashtra not only has the highest cases and deaths in the country but also has one of the highest test positivity rates in the world! Their testing is not up to the mark and their contact tracing leaves a lot to be desired” Dr Vardhan stated.
Vaccine hesitancy by Chhatisgarh
“ Similarly, we have seen regular comments by leaders from Chhattisgarh that are intended to spread misinformation and panic on vaccination. I would like to humbly state that it would be better if the state government focused its energies on ramping up their health infrastructure rather than on petty politicking”.
Chhattisgarh has seen disproportionately higher number of deaths in the last 2-3 weeks. Their testing remains heavily dependent on rapid antigen tests which is not a wise strategy. The Chhattisgarh Government has refused to use “Covaxin” despite it being given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Drug Controller of India. The leaders of the state government have the dubious distinction of being perhaps the only government in the world to have incited vaccine hesitancy.
Many other States also need to bring their healthcare systems up to the mark. For example, quality of testing needs to improve in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Punjab, high case fatality rate needs to be improved by early identification of those needing hospitalization. Mask-wearing and social distancing compliance are slack in a large number of states, Dr Vardhan added.


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