Mumbai: Just as the country is on the cusp of embarking on what is being billed as the world's largest Covid vaccination drive, differences between the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and the Centre surfaced on Wednesday.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday accused the Centre of dispatching fewer vaccine doses. The state has received a total of 9,83,000 doses against its requirement of 17.5 lakh doses. Of the 9,83,000 doses, 9,63,000 alone have come from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) and the remaining 20,000 from Bharat Biotech.
"Maharashtra needs a total of 17.5 lakh vaccine doses, but we have only been able to acquire 55 per cent of the required number as of now, taking into account wastage of about 1.50 lakh," he said.
Tope also said that the Centre has asked the state government not to show haste in carrying out the vaccination campaign from January 16. “The Centre has also asked the state to reduce the number of inoculation centres from 511 to 350. It wants the government to focus on other emergencies also,’’ he noted.
However, hours after Tope’s accusations, the Union Health Ministry refuted these allegations and clarified that there was no question of discrimination against any state in the allocation of vaccine doses. The ministry said, “Full initial procurement amount of 1.65 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin vaccines allocated to all States/UTs in the proportion of healthcare workers database. There is no question of discrimination against any state in the allocation of vaccine doses.”
“This is the initial lot of supply of vaccine doses and will be continuously replenished in the weeks to come. Therefore, any apprehension being expressed on account of deficient supply is totally baseless and unfounded," it added.
Tope told The Free Press Journal, “Eight lakh health workers are to be vaccinated first and vaccine shots will be administered at 350 centres. The two vaccines, namely the Covishield and Covaxin are completely safe.
“Two days ago, I had planned 511 vaccination centres. But at Tuesday's meeting, the Central Government and the health ministry advised not to vaccinate on such a large scale. Therefore, the number of vaccination centres have been reduced from 511 to 350. 100 people will be vaccinated at each vaccination centre. Thus, we intend to vaccinate 35,000 people on the first day,” he said.
Tope expressed hope about receiving further consignments of vaccines in the coming days. He said, “We will consider giving vaccines to critical patients on a priority basis.” He also cautioned that the vaccine might have minor side-effects.
“There is no harm in allowing lawmakers to get vaccinated. But ethically speaking, first priority should be given to health and frontline workers.” He requested all the registered health workers not to refrain from taking the vaccine.
Tope said that two hospitals in Maharashtra, Cooper Hospital and the other, a district hospital in Jalna would be able to interact directly with the Prime Minister. “I will try to be present at the Jalna hospital and take up with the PM various issues relating to the vaccination and coronavirus containment,’’ he added.
The minister said “Everyone in the cabinet should be vaccinated only after the health workers and frontline workers are vaccinated. So let's take care of others first, then take care of ourselves.” He has appealed to the people not to fear vaccination, but go for it.