Maharashtra urges Centre to reduce gap between two shots of Covishield vaccine
Maharashtra on Tuesday urged the Centre to provide booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for its healthcare and frontline workers, and also sought a reduction in the gap between two Covishield doses from the existing 84 days to 28, which is the case with Covaxin jabs.
At a meeting between Maharashtra’s health minister Rajesh Tope and union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya in New Delhi, the western state also sought to know when the anti-Covid vaccination drive for children aged 12-18 would begin.
Tope had made the request to cut down on the time gap between two Covishield doses last week during a virtual meeting between Mandaviya and health ministers of all states and union territories.
The Maharashtra minister argued that there was a need to speed up the administering of second doses across the state.
Until Tuesday evening, Maharashtra had 34,292,903 fully vaccinated people, which is about 37% of the state’s eligible beneficiaries for vaccination against Covid-19.
Of the 91.44 million targeted beneficiaries in the state, 69,789,048 people, which is 76.3%, have taken the first dose.
Maharashtra administered a total 104,094,458 doses of a Covid vaccine until Tuesday evening, according to the Centre’s CoWin vaccine-tracking dashboard.
The state government has set a target of inoculating 100% of its eligible population against the coronavirus disease with at least one dose by November 30.
While the Centre has no such official target for the country, the union health ministry has asked state governments to ensure that the entire adult population is covered with at least the first dose while the “Har Ghar Dastak” campaign continues.
Tope said 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 between Covishield doses, and it has also asked for booster doses for healthcare and frontline workers.
In a column for HT last week, 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. “There is apprehension, amplified by the World Health Organization (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 said it has been nearly a year since healthcare and frontline workers were vaccinated, so booster doses were required.
Maharashtra also sought National Health Mission funds to recruit personnel, as was done during the first two waves of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, for the sixth straight day, Maharashtra recorded fewer than 1,000 Covid-19 cases. On Tuesday, it reported 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 added 213 fresh cases, taking its tally to 760,724. Mumbai recorded one fatality.