National Affairs

No Shortage Of Covid Vaccines: Shots in Offices, Centre Asks States/UTs to Begin Preparation

Vaccination at both public and private workplaces for people aged 45 years and above may be launched from April 11, the government said on Wednesday. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter to Chief Secretary said a substantial proportion of population aged 45 years and above are in the organized sector of the economy and is involved in formal occupation in offices (government and private) or manufacturing and services. To make the vaccination drive “more pragmatic and purposeful” to the beneficiaries, Covid-19 vaccination sessions may be organised at Work Places (both public and private) with about 100 eligible and willing beneficiaries, by tagging these work places with an existing Covid Vaccination Center (CVC), the letter read. To support states in this initiative, guidelines have been prepared to support the State and District Programme Managers with the needed information and guide them on organizing vaccination sessions at such work places, it read. The government has asked officials to start consultations with Private/Public Sector employers and management to prepare for the launch of ‘Work Place Vaccination’. Only employees of the workplace and aged 45 or more will be eligible for vaccination at the work place and no outsides, including family members, will be allowed the vaccines. The government notification comes amid a growing demand to expand the drive to include all age groups. The Centre has also been facing issues of vaccine wastage leading to massive backlash from various sectors and economic losses. On the other hand hinting at vaccine politicking, union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said in a scathing statement that some state governments and political leaders are spreading panic among people to distract attention from their failures in dealing with covid-19 pandemic. “Playing politics is easy, but improving governance and health infrastructure is the real test,” said the health minister highlighting the inability of some states to contain the coronavirus transmission and increase the vaccination. Harsh Vardhan pointed out that most concerning of all are the statements being made by a section of political leaders asking to open up vaccination to everyone above the age of 18, or to drastically lower the minimum age criteria for vaccination eligibility. The health minister said that primary aim of vaccination is to reduce mortality among the most vulnerable people, and enable the society to beat the pandemic. “So long as the supply of vaccines remains limited, there is no option but to prioritize,” said Harsh Vardhan. When states ask to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens. But the facts are altogether different, the health minister said. “Doesn’t it seem evident that these states are trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goal-posts? Politicizing such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better, the health minister asked adding that public representatives in Maharashtra are complaining about shortage of vaccines which is an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic. The health minister further said that many other States also need to bring their healthcare systems up to the mark. For example, quality of testing needs to improve in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Punjab, high Case Fatality Rate needs to be improved by early identification of those needing hospitalization. Mask-wearing and social distancing compliance are slack in a large number of States, he said.

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