The first consignment of 2.76 lakh Covishield vaccine doses reached the state by air at Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India Tuesday. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the vaccine is “100 per cent safe” and the “only remedy” for Covid-19 and urged people to stay away from the controversies surrounding it.
“Indian government has announced that the vaccine is scientifically 100% safe… We (politicians) are not taking it (the vaccine) first because people should not think that when they are yet to get the vaccine the politicians have started taking it. Right now, it is the turn of health workers and corona warriors. We want to secure those sanitation workers, doctors, and nurses who are working in the middle of the pandemic,” he said. The CM was responding to a question on why he and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel would not take the vaccine first to dispel doubts around it.
Patel, who also holds the health portfolio, reiterated that until the first two phases of inoculation for healthcare workers and frontline Covid-19 warriors were completed, “no politician, political leader, or minister will be administered the vaccine” in the state.
“Ensuring their safety is a moral responsibility of governments’ political leaders, ministers, chief ministers etc. At a wedding, only after guests are fed, do the hosts eat,” Patel said. He was speaking after flagging off a flower-bedecked vehicle that will transport the vaccine doses, procured by the Union health ministry from the SII, to Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Bhavnagar zones.
“A total of 1.20 lakh doses will be provided to Ahmedabad Regional Deputy Director’s (RDD) office housed at a cold storage facility at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. Another 96,000 doses will be kept at Gandhinagar RDD office zone, and 60,000 doses will be sent to Bhavnagar zone within the next two days. This consignment will cater to Ahmedabad city and rural, Gandhinagar city and rural, and Bhavnagar zone,” Patel told reporters.
Additionally, a second consignment, containing 93,500 vaccine doses, from Pune will reach Surat on special cold-chain vehicles by road Wednesday, he said. Similarly, a consignment of 94,500 vaccine doses will reach Vadodara, and another 77,000 doses will reach Rajkot on the day.
Nilam Patel, the additional director of state health department and general manager of Gujarat Medical Services Corporation Limited, said the six zonal RDD offices across the state, by way of one-time transport, will transfer the requisite stock to the districts and municipal corporations under each zone. The vaccines will then be transferred to health centres, which will be finally responsible for transferring it to the vaccination sites.
Patel said for the first priority group, maximum registration was seen from Ahmedabad. According to an Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation official, who is overseeing the vaccine supply chain, nearly 55,000 health workers have registered in the city till now, 35,000 of whom are from public facilities and 20,000 from private.
Of the 1.20 lakh doses reserved for the Ahmedabad zone, 61,000 are for AMC. The central AMC store is housed at Aarogya Bhavan from where special vans will distribute the stock to the seven AMC zonal depots, the official said. The stock transferred is expected to last each zone for a minimum of five days. From the zonal depots, the stock will be transferred to the cold chain points at urban health centres, where each in-line refrigerator can hold up to 2,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses, the official added. Each UHC will deliver to the vaccination sites under its jurisdiction.
The Ahmedabad zonal office will also supply the vaccine to Ahmedabad rural, Anand, Kheda and Surendranagar.
A zonal AMC health official, however, said there has been scepticism about registering for the first priority group among health workers in Ahmedabad with many saying they would rather “wait and watch first”.
Patel, meanwhile, said in a decision taken Monday and notified at the party level by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and state BJP chief CR Paatil, the party had decided no leader or minister will be administered the vaccine till the first two phases of inoculation for healthcare workers and Covid-19 warriors were completed. “The reason for this decision is to send a message to our citizens that this (vaccine) is for the citizens, the people, the health workers, and the police personnel as their safety is our country’s priority. (They will be) followed by those aged above 50 years and then those below 50 years of age with serious comorbidities,” Patel said.
Ahead of the Coronavirus vaccine rollout, Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting with state chief ministers Monday had also underscored that politicians should not jump queue to take the vaccine but wait for their turn.
State Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi, meanwhile said that the people have lost faith in the government “given the duplicity we saw with Covid-19 case count, death and testing numbers”.
“It is only natural that people have a sense of fear and suspicion. It is my humble request the CM and DyCM, both of whom are aged above 50 years anyway, as well as the Gujarat Governor, take the vaccine first in a public event and alleviate such fears and inspire confidence in these vaccines, before the vaccination starts on January 16,” Doshi added.
In Gujarat, 4.33 lakh will be vaccinated in the first priority group, which includes healthcare workers — from doctors, nurses, and paramedical staffers — from both government and private sectors. Six lakh frontline workers would get the dose in the second phase.
Vaccine registration has been coordinated via an online registration software Co-WIN. In areas with poor or zero network connectivity, Patel said, the central government has decided to keep the provision of offline registrations.
Besides Patel, state home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja and senior officials from the health department, including principal health secretary Jayanti Ravi, were present at the airport when the vaccine consignment, weighing approximately 700 kilograms, arrived via an Air India flight from Pune airport.
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