In the wake of an alarming surge in Covid-19 infections in Maharashtra, the state government has decided to seek permission from the Centre to begin the third phase of the vaccination drive, which is scheduled for March, for the 50-plus people and younger with comorbidities to arrest the spread of the disease.
State technical advisor Dr Subhash Salunkhe told The Times of India that the “Union government should not wait till March” for those above 50 years and suffering from comorbidities. Further, he alleged that the Centre was responsible for “poor planning” and its “inappropriate public health strategy”.
“In Maharashtra and Kerala where there is an increase in cases in pockets, the Centre must start vaccination of those above 50 years and those with comorbidities earlier so that the situation can be in control. When we have a primary tool for prevention and vaccine companies have assured us of adequate production, the Union government should act fast. There is a spurt in cases in pockets of Marathwada and Vidarbha,” Salunkhe said on Friday, during inspection in Amravati.
While Maharashtra recorded more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day after three months on Friday, only 14,880 persons were vaccinated in the state. As Shiv Jayanti –birth anniversary of warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj — was being celebrated during the day, it affected the vaccination drive in urban areas, an official claimed.
“There is vaccine hesitancy among health and frontline workers, while on the other hand senior citizens and people with comorbidities are willing to take the vaccine. However, the Centre is in the process of framing guidelines for the IT platform and waiting for a formal announcement,” Salunkhe said.
Throwing light on the turnout for vaccination, he said that the rate drops on holidays. “It drops from 48,000 to 15,000 on holiday. We will seek Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention immediately before things get out of hand. While the Centre may develop the IT platform for rolling out the third phase, states that are seeing a rise and especially hotspots should immediately start vaccination for the elderly,” he said.
“The transmission rate is tremendously high in Amravati, Akola and Yavatmal, and the situation needs immediate intervention. While restriction of movement is in place, vaccination should also be initiated for the elderly here,” he added.
Meanwhile, V K Paul, NITI Aayog member (health) told the TOI that the central health officials are “following a set process and vaccination would start soon for those above 50 and those with co-morbidities.”
As many as 2,848 people received a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine while 12,032 people received the first dose, an official said. Those who received the first jab on Friday included 4,371 healthcare workers and 7,661 frontline workers.
So far 5,97,562 people have received the first dose and 27,554 people have received the second dose of coronavirus vaccine in Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, a senior health official on Friday said that a sudden drop in temperature last week in some parts of Maharashtra may have caused a spike in COVID-19 cases. “Temperatures in east Vidarbha started dipping due to moisture coming from the Bay of Bengal and this may have helped the virus to spread with more speed, increasing the number of COVID-19 cases,” he claimed.
However, non adherence to outbreak protocol also played a significant role in the case surge, the official, on condition of anonymity, added. ”The IMD, in its a predictions for February, had communicated to the Centre of possible jump in COVID-19 cases if temperatures drop in the same period,” he said, adding that drop in the mercury level should not be seen as the sole reason behind the spike in cases.