Updated: February 24, 2021 11:53:29 pm
Following the central government’s directions on Wednesday to begin vaccination of senior citizens and people with high-risk comorbidities from March 1, Maharashtra is now gearing up for the third phase of vaccination.
On Wednesday, the Union Health Ministry held a video conference with all states and union territories and directed them to begin registration of two categories of high-risk groups— senior citizens (aged above 60 years) and people aged 45-60 years with co-morbidities. Those with comorbidities will include diabetes, hypertension, HIV, cancer patients, patients with severe heart disease, kidney disease, brain disease, and those on immunotherapy or long-term medication such as steroids.
“Government has only informed us today that the third phase of vaccination will commence from March. In the next two to three days, they will explain how the registration process will be undertaken. Most likely, there will be an app for people to register,” said state Immunisation Officer Dr DN Patil.
Earlier, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope had told The Indian Express that people with co-morbidities will be expected to self-register on a portal or mobile app. Those aged above 60 years are already registered in electoral rolls with the government. Government also has data of people with hypertension and diabetes undergoing treatment in government centres. There are 9.07 lakh diabetic and 13.44 lakh hypertension patients registered with government hospitals since 2011 till date for treatment.
“Initially, people with severe comorbidities were not coming up for vaccination. They wanted to wait and watch. Now, several are eager to get immunised as they have seen no serious side effects. We expect no issues in vaccinating people with severe comorbidities. This is going to be a voluntary exercise though, our health workers will not force anyone for vaccination,” Patil said.
Maharashtra has vaccinated 10.86 lakh health workers and frontline workers so far. On Wednesday, 51,315 were vaccinated, including 22,159 who received their second dose of vaccine. According to the Health Department, so far, 3.34 lakh frontline workers and 6.43 lakh healthcare workers have received at least one shot of the vaccine.
With the onset of the third phase of immunisation, private hospitals may be roped in to make vaccination easily accessible for the general public. A final decision on this is pending. Until now, private hospitals were only allowed to vaccinate their own staff.
“We need to take up mass vaccination on a big scale to attain herd immunity. Private hospitals are willing to help to speed up the process,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali, consultant with Bombay Hospital, which is one of the 22 private hospitals in Mumbai allowed to hold vaccination drive for their own staffers.
Across Maharashtra, there are over 800 vaccination centres aiming to vaccinate over 80,000 people a day. But with continued glitches with the Co-WIN app, several people listed for vaccination either do not receive their appointment message or those willing to get their second shot can’t get it unless their name appears in the session list. State officials said Covid-19 vaccination, unlike polio or measles-rubella vaccination drives, cannot be undertaken offline even if technical faults with software continue.
“These are central government guidelines, we cannot do anything about it. We have communicated issues with the app multiple times to them,” said a senior health official.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra received stock of 2.34 lakh Covaxin doses, taking its total stock of Covaxin to 4.10 lakh doses. In addition, Covishield’s total stock is 20.37 lakh. Close to 50 per cent stock is exhausted in immunising health workers and frontline workers
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