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Covid-19 vax drive: Lagging districts Maharashtra’s priority

The Maharashtra government on Thursday decided to give priority to districts that are lagging behind in vaccination, by providing more doses to bring them up to the state’s average
By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 27, 2021 11:40 PM IST

The Maharashtra government on Thursday decided to give priority to districts that are lagging behind in vaccination, by providing more doses to bring them up to the state’s average. State health minister Rajesh Tope said some districts have an average of around 40-50%, while some districts have an average of around 5%. The state, meanwhile, is seeking more information from the eight bidders that have responded to the state’s call for 50 million vaccine doses. Tope added that the Centre should intervene, reiterating that a national policy on vaccine import must be formulated.

According to health department officials, districts such as Hingoli, Parbhani, Gadchiroli, Nandurbar, Solapur, Palghar, Beed and Solapur are behind on vaccination drive. These districts are expected to get more vaccines. Officials also added that besides vaccine shortage, vaccine-hesitancy and far-off vaccination centres in tribal districts etc are also reasons for low percentage of beneficiaries there.

“In the above 45-years category, the state average is around 27% [vaccination]. Some districts have reached 50-60%, but there are also districts where it is around 5%. Therefore, we have taken a decision regarding vaccine distribution in such districts,” Tope said, after the state cabinet meeting. He also added that the government has decided on a “policy” to give priority to second dose. “Districts where second doses are due, the stock will be provided,” he added.

The health minister further said the Centre needs to “intervene” in the matter of importing vaccines. Tope said the “marketing agencies” of vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik and Astra Zeneca have given responses to the global bid. However, some companies have not given their rates, while some have not given their schedule, he said. “We are seeking more details from the companies, but the Centre too must intervene and we are requesting the Centre to give their opinion on this.”

The intermediaries who have responded have quoted prices between US$10 to US$18, while it is US$25 for Pfizer and US$23 for AstraZeneca shots. Tope admitted that some companies’ decision to not provide vaccines to state governments has caused a hindrance. “Pfizer has clearly told Punjab [government] that it will not give vaccines to state, but only the Centre. So far, the Centre has given permission to Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik. They may give it to Pfizer and Moderna also later. Therefore, we appeal to the Centre to formulate a national policy on vaccine import,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state administered 278,687 doses till 8pm on Thursday. So far, the state has administered 21,642,190 doses, of which 4,460,587 beneficiaries are fully vaccinated. Mumbai saw 46,156 doses being administered till 8pm on Thursday, while the total doses administered rose to 3,156,422. So far, 754,032 beneficiaries in Mumbai are fully vaccinated.

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