(Satish Bate/HT Photo)
(Satish Bate/HT Photo)

Fewer vaccine doses, centres needle Maharashtra

Change in Union government strategy sees vaccine centres in state fall from 511 to 358, while city’s booths dip to 50
By Surendra P Gangan and Tanushree Venkatraman, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 12:55 AM IST

The number of Covid-19 vaccination centres in Maharashtra has dropped from 511 to 358, including Mumbai’s dip in booths from 72 to 50, owing to the Centre’s change in strategy. A miffed state government also said they have received fewer doses than expected, which can only inoculate around 500,000 health workers, along with revising the target of daily vaccinations from 50,000 to 35,000.

A total of 963,000 vials of Covishield and 20,000 of Covaxin allotted by the Centre for Maharashtra reached divisional level cold-chain systems and are expected to reach district-level systems latest by January 15, a day before the nationwide roll-out.

State health minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday complained about the fewer vials, saying that the state had earlier set a target of inoculating 800,000 health workers.“We have been informed to ensure that health workers get both doses of the same vaccine, within a stipulated period, from the available stock. We would have needed 1,750,000 vials, considering around 10% wastage, to cover all health workers with two doses within 28 days, but we have received just 963,000. With the given stock, we will be able to inoculate only 55% of health workers,” said Tope.

Tope expressed fear that some health workers are opting out of inoculation out of other concerns. “However, they are the real heroes and should set an example before the general public by coming forward for the drive,” he said. Tope said that politicians should not be vaccinated unless health workers and frontline workers are done with the drive.

The minister said all cold-chain systems and vaccine centres are equipped with deep freezers and ice-lined refrigerators (ILRs) to maintain the specified temperature of vials. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to virtually interact with health workers at Cooper Hospital in Mumbai and the District Hospital in Jalna on January 16. Tope also said that as per the Centre’s protocol, the vaccine will not be administered to people under 18 years of age, pregnant women and those with allergies. “Vaccines have been distributed late last night and have reached almost all divisions. The stock will reach Nagpur late in the evening. There is no difficulty faced in transportation of the vaccine stock. The number of the vaccine centres has been changed as per Central government orders,” said Dr Ramaswami N, commissioner, family welfare, and director, National Health Mission.

Meanwhile, the state on Wednesday recorded 3,556 cases and 70 deaths, taking the tally to 1,978,044 and 50,221 fatalities till date. Dr Avinash Supe, who heads the state-appointed death audit committee said, “While we were expecting a surge, it did not happen and daily cases have been stable now. We expect this trend to continue and there is no indication of a surge in cases now, although there is a threat of the variant found in many countries.”

“The reduction in centres has probably been done to make it manageable in the first stage. We have kept most of the centres at tehsil and district-level hospitals, so that immediate care could be given in case of any reaction to the vaccine is reported. The health workers who were expected to be inoculated at the centres, which have been cancelled, will be adjusted to other centres,” said an official from the health department.

Dr. PD Gandhal, deputy director, Nashik division, said, “The vaccines in most of the five districts in our division have reached, from where the stock will be transported to centres by January 15. We have 687 ILRs in the division and have no problem in stocking the vials at given temperature.”

The health department’s principal secretary, Pradeep Vyas, made a presentation to the state cabinet during the weekly cabinet meeting, explaining about the vaccination programme.

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