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'Deplorable attempts by some states': Harsh Vardhan on Maharashtra's vaccine shortage claim

BusinessToday.In     April 8, 2021

After the Maharashtra government's vaccine shortage claims, health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in a strongly worded statement has slammed "deplorable attempts by some state governments" to distract attention from "their failures and spread panic among the people".

At a time when the country is witnessing a fresh wave of rising COVID-19 infections, Vardhan said he was alarmed to see many states have failed to take appropriate response measures and apply the lessons the nation learned over the past one year of handling this pandemic.

In an indirect attack on Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope and chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, Varshan said most concerning of all are the statements being made by a section of political leaders, asking to open up vaccination to everyone above the age of 18, or to drastically lower the minimum age criteria for vaccination eligibility.

He said as long as the supply of vaccines remains limited, there is no option but to prioritise. This is also the established practice around the world, and is well known to all state governments, he said.

"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," he stressed.

He said Maharashtra has vaccinated only 86 per cent of health workers with first dose. The equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72 per cent and 64 per cent. On the other hand, 10 Indian states/UTs have done more than 90 per cent.

Similarly, Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41 per cent healthcare workers with the second dose; Delhi and Punjab are 41 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively; and 12 Indian states/UTs with 60 per cent.

Also read: 'Get your shot soon': PM Modi after getting 2nd COVID-19 vaccine dose

"Doesn't it seem evident that these states are trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goal-posts? Politicising such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better," he said.

Talking about the issue of shortage of vaccines raised by Maharashtra, Vardhan said this is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government's repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic. "To spread panic among the people is to compound the folly further. 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," he said.

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.

Also read: Vaccine shortage in Maharashtra; inoculation centres send back people

He also said that comments by leaders from Chhattisgarh are intended to spread misinformation and panic on vaccination. He said states like Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat also need to bring their healthcare systems up to the mark. In Punjab, a high case fatality rate needs to be improved by early identification of those needing hospitalisation, he said.

Maharashtra health Minister Rajesh Tope yesterday said vaccination centres in the state had to send back people due to lack of doses of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. Tope said that during a press briefing about the concerns he shared with Vardhan on Tuesday evening. "We do not have enough vaccine doses at various vaccination centres, and people have to be sent back due to a shortage of doses. We have demanded from the Centre that people of age group 20-40 years must be vaccinated on priority," he said.

Rajesh Tope said that the state currently has 14 lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses, which will get consumed in three days. He said that Maharashtra has asked for 40 lakh additional doses. While the Centre is giving the doses, the speed of delivery is slow.

Also read: SII chose to prioritise India for 2 months; vaccine exports likely to resume by June: Adar Poonawalla

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