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‘Why so few vaccines?’: Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope accuses Centre of ‘discrimination’ over jab supply

Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope also said he has raised the ‘issue of vaccine discrimination’ towards Maharashtra with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who has assured him that corrections will be made soon

The Maharashtra govt on Thursday, welcoming the Centre’s offer to send 17 lakh COVID-19 vaccines, however, said that the supply is too little to meet its daily needs and accused the BJP-led NDA govt of being “discriminatory” towards non-BJP ruled states in supplying vaccines.

Citing figures of supply of vaccine doses, Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope in a Facebook live said that the Centre was “supplying more vaccines to BJP-ruled states” such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana compared to Maharashtra despite them having fewer cases and population, reports said.

“Maharashtra has been given 7.5 lakh vaccine dosages on Thursday. While Uttar Pradesh was given 48 lakh doses, Madhya Pradesh 40 lakh, Gujarat 30 lakh and Haryana 24 lakh doses,” Tope said, according to PTI.

“Why is Maharashtra, which is leading the vaccination drive and has the highest number of active cases, getting only 7.5 lakh doses?” he asked.

The Maharashtra health minister demanded that the Centre increase the supply of vaccines to the populous state in proportion to its population and number of cases.

Stating the Centre’s announcement on Thursday to increase supply to 17 lakh doses by 15 April is not enough, Tope Thursday reiterated that the state needs 1.6 crore vaccine doses a month and 40 lakh vaccines a week.

He said that the state accounts for 55 percent of the total number of active cases in the country and the vaccination supply should be as per the need.

“This is what we expect. The state and the Centre need to unitedly save people from the corornavirus,” he said.

“We will maintain the (vaccination) level of six lakh (doses) per day. We will not go beyond that at this stage, but at least give us 40 lakh vaccines per week,” Tope added.

He said that Maharashtra, which has a population of 12 crore, has received 1.04 crore doses so far, whereas neighbouring Gujarat, with a population of six crore and 17,000 active cases, has got one crore doses.

“We have the most number active patients, positivity rate and death with 12 crore population. Why we are given so few vaccines?” a report in Times of India quoted Tope as saying.

He also said he has raised the “isstue of vaccine discrimination” towards Maharashtra with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who has assured him that corrections will be made soon, the report added.

Vaccination halted in several cities in Maharashtra

The shortage of supply of vaccines comes at a time when the state is reeling under the second wave of the pandemic. The state on Wednesday reported 59,907 new COVID-19 cases, the highest ever single-day spike. Maharashtra has the maximum number of active patients, around 4.5 lakh as of date, while its total caseload has crossed 30 lakh, he said.

As reported earlier, the vaccination drive was temporarily halted on Thursday in several parts of Maharashtra, including Pune, Panvel and Satara, Sangli due to a “shortage” in vaccine supply.

“We hardly have nine lakh doses left, which would last one day or one-and-a-half days,” Tope said.

The official notification issued by the Panvel Municipal Corporation read: “Vaccination drive temporarily halted in all government and private inoculation centres in Panvel, due to unavailability of #COVID19 vaccines. Centres will be reopened once vaccines are back in stock.”

According to NCP leader Supriya Sule, Pune shut over 100 vaccination centres because of a vaccine shortage. She also alleged that several people in Pune had to return home without getting vaccinated.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Maharashtra government had said that the state was running short of vaccines, especially in urban centres, and urged the Centre to send in additional stocks.

“We do not have enough vaccine doses at various vaccination centres, and people have to be sent back due to a shortage of doses. We have demanded from the Centre that people of age group 20-40 years must be vaccinated on priority,” ANI had quoted Tope as saying.

“We need 40 lakh vaccine doses every week. We can then administer six lakh doses every day in a week. The doses we are getting are not enough,” Tope had said on Wednesday, according to PTI.

Odisha facing a shortage too

Maharashtra over is not the only state facing a shortage in supply of COVID vaccines. Odisha had reportedly shut over 600 centres on Wednesday and temporarily closed nearly 50 percent of the vaccination centres on Thursday as there were no vaccines.

The state has written to the health ministry asking for additional allocation of vaccine doses.

Politics over vaccine supply?

The government’s remarks drew a sharp reaction from the health minister Harsh Vardhan, who accused the Maharashtra government of making a “deplorable attempt to distract attention from the failures and spread panic among the people”.

Vardhan made several remarks on how Maharashtra has single-handedly bogged down the entire country’s efforts to fight the virus with its “lackadaisical attitude”.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, slammed Vardhan’s response to the vaccine shortage, saying he reacted like a BJP leader and not the health minister of the country.

Continuing the war of words over vaccine supply, Union Minister and BJP leader Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday accused the state of wasting 5 lakh doses.

“Maharashtra has 23 lakh doses, which is supply for five days. Every state has stock for 3 to 4 days. It is the state’s responsibility to send it to various districts. Maharashtra has, in fact, wasted five lakh doses,” he said.

With inputs from PTI




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