The last thing that the country wants is politicization of corona vaccination. But the issue actually turned to politics when India’s Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan slammed Maharashtra, Delhi and Chhattisgarh governments in the wake of their demand for expanding vaccination and the issue of shortage of vaccines.
Vardhan rebutted the claims of shortage and said that the respective governments have not utilized the given vaccine doses to their healthcare, frontline workers and senior citizens.
Reacting to statements about opening of vaccination, he said that these statements have the potential to mislead the public and spread panic, it has become necessary to put the record straight.
Dr Vardhan pointed out: “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.”
According to Indian Health Ministry, Maharashtra has vaccinated just 86% of health workers with the first dose. The equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72% and 64%. On the other hand, 10 Indian states and UTs have done more than 90%.
Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41% of healthcare workers with the second dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 41% and 27%. There are 12 Indian states and UTs that have done more than 60%.
Among frontline workers, Maharashtra has vaccinated only 73% with the first dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 71% and 65%. There are 5 Indian states/UTs that have already done more than 85%.
Vaccination of frontline workers with second dose for Maharashtra is at 41% For Delhi and Punjab, these numbers are 22% and 20%. There are 6 Indian states and UTs that have done more than 45%.
When it comes to senior citizens, Maharashtra has vaccinated just 25%, Delhi has vaccinated 30% and Punjab has vaccinated only 13%. There are four states and UTs that have already vaccinated more than 50%.
Dr Vardhan asked that does not 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, he added.
“In particular, I have seen statements made by public representatives in Maharashtra about shortage of vaccines. This is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of the pandemic,” said the Indian Health Minister.
He pointed out that the inability of Maharashtra government to act responsibly is beyond comprehension. To spread panic among the people is to compound the folly further. 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, he explained.
He pointed out that the Maharashtra government needs to do a lot more to control the pandemic and the Central government will help them in all possible ways. But focusing all their energies on playing politics and spreading lies to create panic is not going to help the people of Maharashtra.
“Similarly, we have seen regular comments by leaders from Chhattisgarh 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 focuses its energies on ramping up their health infrastructure rather than on petty politicking,” he opined.
Chhattisgarh has seen a disproportionately higher number of deaths in the last 2-3 weeks. Their testing remains heavily dependent on rapid antigen tests which is not a wise strategy, said Dr Vardhan.