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Union Health Minister Slams States for Creating “Vaccine Panic”

NEW DELHI, Apr 7: Slamming the Maharashtra and some other state governments of allegedly creating “vaccine panic,” the union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said they were trying to cover their “failures” and spreading panic among people by demanding vaccination of all without inoculating enough of eligible beneficiaries.

He further said the Maharashtra health minister; statement about vaccine shortage in the worst-hit state was “nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic”.

“At a time when the country is witnessing a fresh wave of rising Covid-19 infections, I am alarmed to note the fact that many State governments have failed to take appropriate response measures and apply the lessons that the nation has learned over the past one year of handling this pandemic,” he said.

Asserting that allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless, Vardhan said Maharashtra’s “testing is not up to the mark and their contact tracing leaves a lot to be desired.” In a strong statement, he said, “It is shocking to see how the State Government is putting Maharashtrians in danger by letting people escape institutional quarantine mandate for the sake of their personal Vasuli.

“Overall, as the State has lurched from one crisis to another, it seems as if the State leadership is happily sleeping at the wheels.”

About Chhattisgarh, he said regular comments have been made by leaders from the State “that are intended to spread misinformation and panic on vaccination”.

“I would like to humbly state that it would be better if the State government focusses its energies on ramping up their health infrastructure rather than on petty politicking,” Vardhan said while flagging “disproportionately higher number of deaths in the last 2-3 weeks” in the State.

He also said the State’s testing remains heavily dependent on rapid antigen tests which is not a wise strategy.

He further said 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 hospitalisation,” he said.

Vardhan said 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,” he said while pointing out that Maharashtra has vaccinated just only 86% of health workers with the first dose, while the equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72% and 64%.

On the other hand, 10 Indian states/UTs have done more than 90%, he added.

The minister further said Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41% of healthcare workers with the second dose, while the same for Delhi and Punjab are 41% and 27%, though there are 12 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 60 per cent.

(Manas Dasgupta)