MEDICAL EXPERTS, bureaucrats and politicians who attended the Covid-19 review meeting on Friday, chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, highlighted the need for a blanket vaccination drive in Pune district under which everyone aged above 18 is vaccinated against Covid-19. This view was expressed even as the daily count of fresh positive cases inch close to 3,000 and positivity rate has gone up to 17 per cent.
According to central government policy, only health workers, frontline staff, senior citizens and persons aged above 45 with co-morbidities can get the vaccine jab as of now.
Health experts such as Dr Subhash Salunke, adviser to the state government on Covid-19 response; politicians, including Mayor Murlidhar Mohol and MLA Madhuri Misal; and bureaucrats such as Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao suggested to Pawar that the state should demand more vaccines and a liberal vaccination policy for the district. They suggested that this could be effective in controlling the spread of the viral infection in Pune, which is one the worst-affected districts in the country.
Dr Salunke said there was a valid argument for opening up vaccination programme as per the need of areas. He said the argument for equal distribution of vaccines to all districts and states “does not hold any water because the disease is not showing equal distribution”.
“A Lucknow or a Jhansi is not as affected as Pune. So why should we be constrained by how many doses other districts get?” Dr Salunke said.
“Worst-affected areas should get a priority in vaccination. We should convey to the government that since Pune has a high rate of positivity and is one of the worst-affected in the state, it should get priority in the allocation of vaccine as well as relaxation of rules for opening up new vaccination centres and the administration of the vaccines. Senior citizens, people above 45 with co-morbidities, people below 45 with co-morbidities and others above the age of 18 without any co-morbidities should be vaccinated concurrently,” Dr Salunke told The Indian Express.
He said with 208 vaccine centres active at present in Pune district, about 20,000 people could get vaccinated per day, when the district’s potential capacity for daily vaccinations was much higher due to excellent private health infrastructure.
“If the Centre allows us to increase the vaccine centres as per need, we could start several hundred more at private hospitals, NGOs, and the per day capacity can go up to 1 lakh per day. With this infrastructure, about 25 per cent of the district’s population can get the shot by the end of April, provided we get enough supply. This will stop the spread of the virus now and a possible third wave,” Dr Salunke added.
Asked if the Centre was open to the idea of “blanket vaccination”, he said, “They are adamant and are against it. But we are trying to persuade them via elected representatives and the state government.”
Misal said since the age group of 21 to 40 had emerged as having the highest number of infections with 30 per cent of the total cases, although with low mortality, this group continued to play the role of carrier. “If we can get this group vaccinated, the spread will slow down,” Misal said.
Rao said if the Centre allowed opening up more centres, vaccination capacity in the district could be increased manifold.
At the meeting, Pawar and other public representatives of different parties agreed to convey this demand to the Centre and planning agencies like Niti Aayog to get the city’s vaccination programme fast-tracked.
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