Maharashtra pushes for booster doses, reduction in Covishield gap
Maharashtra on Tuesday asked for booster doses for its healthcare workers and frontline workers, a reduction in the gap between two Covishield doses from 84 days to 28, and sought to know when vaccination for children between ages 12 and 18 would begin. These demands were made by Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope in a meeting with Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya in New Delhi.
Tope sought a reduction in the period between two doses of Covidshield from 84 days to 28, at par with the Covaxin doses of Bharat Biotech. Last week, Tope had made the request in a virtual meeting between Mandaviya and health ministers of all states and union territories.
The demand, he said, is to boost the speed of administering second doses in the state. As of 9pm on Tuesday, November 16, Maharashtra had 34,292,903 fully vaccinated people or approximately 37% of the state’s eligible beneficiaries. Of the 91.44 million targetted beneficiaries in the state, 69,789,048 people or 76.3% have taken the first dose. Maharashtra had administered 104,094,458 doses till 9pm on Tuesday, according to the Central government’s CoWin vaccine tracking dashboard.
The state government has set a target of inoculating 100% of its eligible population with at least one dose by November 30. While the Centre has no target for India as such, the Union health ministry has asked state governments to ensure that all the adult population is covered with the first doses during the ongoing ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ campaign.
Tope remarked that the 20-minute meeting with the Union health minister “was “positive.”
He said, “We want to increase the percentage of fully vaccinated people. Therefore, we have sought a reduction in the gap between two Covishield doses from 84 days to 28 days.”
Besides Maharashtra, Kerala, too, has demanded a reduction in the gap for Covishield doses and also asked for booster doses for healthcare workers and frontline workers.
In a column for HT last week, renowned virologist and retired professor at Christian Medical College, Vellore, Dr T Jacob John wrote why booster doses may become an important tool in containing the virus. “Dampening the tempo of virus circulation will lead to fewer infections and deaths. For that, breakthrough infections must be prevented by giving booster doses to all who come forward,” he wrote. He added, “There is apprehension, amplified by the World Health Organisation (WHO), that a booster dose deprives someone waiting for second dose. If vaccines were in short supply, that is reasonable. However, India has unused vaccine stocks in several states and institutions — thus, a policy shift allowing boosters will be a wise and ethical decision.”
The state health minister added that it has been nearly a year that HCWs and FLWs have taken their vaccines, so booster doses were sought for these categories. This is similar to what was done in some countries such the United States, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. “It was a positive discussion. He (Mandaviya) said that they will study our demands,” Tope said.
The state also sought National Health Mission funds to recruit personnel, as was done during the first two waves of the coronavirus. “Owing to the threat of a probable third Covid-19 wave, [we] requested budget allocations for human resources in supplementary PIP [programme implementation plan] under the national health mission,” Tope said. He added that the state had asked for a revision in the proposal to set up catheterisation or cath labs under the NHM’s supplementary project implementation plan. This was previously disapproved under PIP.
“We want to set up more cath labs in Maharashtra to scan patients for their heart ailments, angioplasty, angiography, etc, but NHM funds don’t cover it (setting up labs). We made a representation to the ministry and they have asked us to send a separate letter for cath labs. We are hopeful that it will be considered,” said Tope.
Meanwhile, for the sixth day straight, Maharashtra recorded fewer than 1000 Covid-19 cases. On Tuesday, Maharashtra added 886 fresh cases, pushing the tally to 6,625,872. The state added 34 fatalities due to Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 140,636. Mumbai, meanwhile, added 213 fresh cases, taking its tally to 760,724. Mumbai recorded one fatality. In the last 24 hours, the state tested 102,888 samples, giving a positivity rate of 0.86%. The overall positivity rate of Maharashtra stood at 10.33%.
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