On Tuesday, when Maharashtra received its first tranche of 9.83 lakh vaccine doses, State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said it will take a month to inoculate the state’s 7.86 lakh healthcare workers. The state government plans to vaccinate 35,000 healthcare workers on January 16, the first day of the rollout.
Tope said that Maharashtra is ready to spend on procurement of vaccines if the Centre stops supply after offering the initial batches. Refuting the claims that he believes that the initial supply is insufficient, as being reported by a section of media, the minister claimed: “We have 7.8 lakh registered healthcare workers. To give them two doses 28 days apart, we need 15.6 lakh doses. About 10 per cent doses are expected to get wasted during the immunisation. Considering that, we need over 17.1 lakh doses for the healthcare workers. We have received 9.83 lakh doses, and we expect more stock to arrive soon. We don’t know by when.” Of 9.83 lakh doses, 9.63 lakh are of Covishield from Serum Institute of India, while 20,000 are Covaxin doses from Bharat Biotech.
Maharashtra earlier finalised 511 vaccination centres across the state, but following direction from the Centre, it has reduced the total centres to 358. “There were multiple reasons for reducing the number of centres. Since this is a new vaccine, we wanted adverse events to be managed at the hospital level so that proper monitoring can be done,” Tope said.]
The state government plans to complete the first-dose vaccination of 7.86 lakh health workers in a month. Teams from the United Nations Development Programme will be roped in to handle logistical issues at the vaccination centres.
Dr Archana Patil, director of Family Welfare in the Directorate of Health Services, said they are slowly scaling up the immunisation process to cover the entire population in phases. “We don’t want to give vaccines to everyone at one go. The stock of 9.83 lakh doses will be used for half of the registered health workers so that both doses of the same vaccine are given to each person. When the next stock comes, we will rope in more beneficiaries,” she said, adding that there is no hurry in immunising all beneficiaries. “We also want to monitor the vaccinated population.”
Tope said, on January 16, he will congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and interact with him from the Jalna vaccination centre where a two-way communication system has been set up between vaccine beneficiaries and the Prime Minister.
The minister has added that the state will procure vaccines on its own when the Centre stops the supply. “During our video conference, the Prime Minister said they will wait for 60 per cent of vaccination (of health workers and front line workers) to get over before further talks on vaccine supply are taken up. We will wait until then,” Tope said.
The Union health ministry has assured all states that it will provide the initial stock to immunise 30 crore priority population comprising healthcare and frontline workers. Maharashtra has a list of 7.86 lakh health workers and about 20 lakh frontline workers, including police, municipal staff, defence, BEST drivers and conductors.
A senior official from the Maharashtra health ministry said the Centre has been supportive in procuring and distributing personal protective equipment and N-95 masks at the onset of pandemic. “We are, therefore, not planning state-level procurement of vaccines yet. The Centre has assured us to provide some stocks, and we will wait for them to send,” the official added.
The health minister has indicated that vaccines must be free for the poor. “Those who are vulnerable can’t be left to their fate. We have not prepared any budget for procurement of vaccines yet but it can be prepared through a contingency fund,” he said.
The government has excluded pregnant women, those prone to allergies and children aged below 18 years from vaccination.