The Maharashtra government on Thursday hinted that it was prepared to offer free Covid-19 vaccines to the public even if the Centre did not provide these for free. Minister of Public Health Rajesh Tope said, “We have demanded that the Central government give the Covid vaccine to people free of cost. Even if it doesn't, we will consider giving it for free in the state."
Tope said the Central government's decision on providing vaccines would be implemented in Maharashtra. He reiterated that even if the Centre would not give the doses free of cost, the state government would not shrug off its responsibility towards the people of the state. However, he insisted that the state government desired that the Centre provide the vaccine for free.
“If the Centre gives its nod by the end of this month to carry out mass Covid-19 vaccinations, then around three crore people could be given the vaccine in the state in the first round,’’ he said. “We are currently preparing to administer the vaccine to around three crore people,” he added.
“My personal guess is that if we put together all the medical staff workers, frontline workers, people above 50 years of age and those with co-morbidities but below 50 years of age, then the figure would be around three crore in the state. These people will get the vaccine in the first round,” he said.
Tope explained the three-phased vaccination strategy. “The first phase is of training. We are aggressively working on training health workers. Around 18,000 are completing the process of training. The second phase is fulfilling the cold chain requirements for vaccine storage and the third is logistics, including the vaccine price and other things,’’ he said.
According to Tope, every person selected for vaccination in the first round will get an SMS on his or her mobile number. The person will have to wait at the facility for 30 minutes after receiving the dose. All these procedures will be strictly followed at the centres.
Tope's statement comes days after the state steering committee led by the chief secretary has decided that government employees in the healthcare sector, including doctors and nurses, would get the vaccine in the first round of inoculation in Maharashtra. The vaccination team will have five members.
The committee has said health workers from government and private hospitals, salaried workers and employees from the Integrated Child Development Project will be among the first to get their shots. The second group includes frontline workers, including disaster management volunteers from state and Central police, armed action forces, home guards, civil security agencies, and municipal employees. The third group includes people over the age of 50 and those with other health issues.
As many as 16,245 employees and 90,000 beneficiaries have been registered on the government's Co-vin portal, so far.