Covid-19 vaccine shortage: Maharashtra, Centre in a war of words

Covid-19 vaccine shortage: Maharashtra, Centre in a war of words

The Centre today hit back at the Maharashtra government and accused it of creating panic and spreading lies after it raised serious concerns about Covid-19 vaccine shortage in the state.

The Centre's reaction came hours after Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said that the state had barely 2-3 days of vaccine stock left and urged the central government to hasten supplies. A day earlier, other non-Bharatiya Janata Party ruled states including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha had expressed similar concerns of vaccine shortage.

The development comes as India surpassed the US to become the fastest vaccinating country in the world with an average daily rate of 3.09 million vaccine doses. In all 87 million doses have been administered to date, including 3.3 million on Tuesday, Union health ministry said in a statement.

Briefing reporters today, Tope said, "We were vaccinating 300,000 persons daily when the Centre asked us to double the target. We took up the challenge and are now vaccinating around 450,000 people daily in Maharashtra.” He added, “We will easily scale up to 500,000 and then 600,000. But now we are forced to close some of the vaccination centres in the state as the doses are not available. People are being turned away by the staff at these centres."

The minister said Maharashtra is the number one state in vaccinating people and urged the Centre to supply doses quickly and open up vaccination for everyone above 18 years as that would help the state to contain the spread of the pandemic. According to Tope, the state has 1.4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses available, which will suffice for only three days.

He also said Maharashtra was adopting all the instructions laid down by the Centre and following the 3T principle of tracking, testing and treatment.

Tope's remarks led to a sharp rebuke from the Centre with Union health minister Harsh Vardhan accusing Maharashtra of politicising the issue.

"Vaccine supplies are being monitored on a real-time basis, and state governments are being apprised regularly about it. Allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless," Harsh Vardhan said in a statement. His colleague, Information & Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar also said Maharashtra should stop politicising the vaccine issue and added that nearly 2.3 million doses were available, including 740,000, which are in the pipeline.

Harsh Vardhan said the performance of the Maharashtra government in vaccinating healthcare and frontline workers was also not great. "It is shocking to see how the state government is putting Maharashtrians in danger by letting people escape institutional quarantine mandates for the sake of their personal vasuli. Overall, as the state has lurched from one crisis to another, it seems the state leadership is happily sleeping at the wheels," he said.

The Union health minister said Maharashtra has vaccinated only 86 per cent of the health workers with the first dose. The equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively. On the other hand, 10 Indian states and Union Territories have a more than 90 per cent record, he added.

Maharashtra has administered the second dose to just 41 per cent of healthcare workers; the equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 41 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, he said. And 12 Indian states/UTs have done more than 60 per cent.

Meanwhile, vaccination has been halted in the town of Panvel near Mumbai. The local municipal corporation said vaccination will not be carried out till fresh stock is made available.