Goa to begin vaccinating taxi drivers, seafarers as frontline workers
Amid an increasingly slow pace of its vaccination drive, the Goa government has decided to expand the definition of frontline workers to make taxi drivers, motorcycle pilots as well as seafarers eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.
The decision, announced by chief minister Pramod Sawant, stands to benefit as many as 30,000 registered taxi drivers in Goa as well as the thousands of seafarers who will not be able to board their ship when called for duty unless they can show proof of vaccination.
Earlier the Goa government had made the lifeguards manning Goa’s beaches eligible for vaccination in addition to government field staff, journalists and other frontline workers.
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“Priority vaccination will be made available for 18-45-year-old persons, people with comorbidities, lactating mothers, motorcycle pilots, rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, seafarers, and the disabled,” Sawant announced.
Goa has more than 250,530 doses “surplus” among those allocated for people aged 45 years and above, but the response among those in that age group has been lukewarm with the state being able to vaccinate only around 4,000-5,000 people a day despite launching Tika Utsav 2.0.
Sawant had earlier said that the state would seek permission to “loan” vaccines that were allocated to the 45+ age group to other age groups where the demand is higher but was yet to be given the go-ahead by the Centre.
“We have sought permission from the government of India to loan some of the vaccines that are allocated for the above 45 age group. In the next eight to ten days, we will start the vaccination for the priority groups in the 18-44 age group,” Sawant had said.
The decision to include seafarers comes on the back of a directive of the Union Ministry for Shipping, Port and Waterways on May 7, 2021, asking all major ports to commence vaccination for seafarers.
The seafarers, many of whom had received calls to rejoin duty aboard ships, but were unable to do so sans vaccination, had been urging the Goa government to start vaccination on priority for them.
The taxi operators, a large and politically active constituency in the state, have also welcomed the move.