Dry run for Covid-19 vaccination in all Maharashtra districts on January 8

Maharashtra is planning to demand free Covid-19 vaccine shots for its poor as it prepares to roll out its immunisation drive with another dry run to be undertaken in all 36 districts on January 8.

The state government on Monday also announced stricter norms for United Kingdom (UK) returnees detected with the new virus strain, especially after the Central government’s decision of resuming flight services between India and the UK from January 8. The state government has clarified that the quarantine period for passengers found with the new variant of the virus will range between 14 and 21 days and may be prolonged, depending on clinical conditions.

State health minister Rajesh Tope said that in a video conference with the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) on January 7, the state government is going to request the Centre to bear the cost of the vaccine shots for the poor.

He said the people below poverty line cannot afford the vaccine even if two doses of it are priced at ₹500. “People below the poverty line, persons with comorbidities and above 60 years should be given the vaccine for free. We are going to raise this demand during our conference with the MoHFW on Thursday. Though there is no clarity on it as yet, we believe that it has been made free for health workers, frontline workers. The poor, too, should get it for free,” he said.

Tope said that epidemic diseases and their handling is the responsibility of the Centre and the state has followed all its instructions and protocol right from the beginning of the outbreak. “For the past three months, the Centre has not been providing us equipment like ventilators, RT-PCR kits, and tablets like Remdesivir and Tocilozumab. The state has borne the expenses of making them available through public health services…We have also been bearing the establishment cost for the drive ,including training of the vaccinators, storage of the vaccine. Now, the Centre should take the responsibility of the cost of the vaccine for the poor,” he added.

The health minister said that the state is going to conduct dry runs for vaccination in all the 36 districts, including Mumbai, on January 8. “Maharashtra is all set for the vaccination, which we expect to be rolled out in the next eight-10 days. We have a cold chain system in place, 16,000 vaccinators have been trained and are ready for the drive. 780,000 health care workers have already been registered on CoWIN app, while people from other categories, like frontline workers, are being registered by the respective departments. We are all set to roll out the programme once it is announced by the Centre. We expect the release of vaccine doses by the Centre in proportion to the registrations done,” Tope said.

Meanwhile, keeping with the trend of fewer than 4,000 cases for the past 20 days, Maharashtra clocked 3,160 new infections and 64 new deaths. The case tally touched 1,950,171 and toll stood at 49,759. Mumbai clocked 539 new cases and nine deaths, taking the tally to 295,525 and toll to 11,147. Nagpur city reported 300 cases and three deaths, while Pune city clocked 250 cases and four deaths.

The number of active cases further fell to 49,067 after 2,828 more patients were discharged over the past 24 hours. State’s case fatality rate (CFR) remains high at 2.55%, although the weekly mortality rate has dropped significantly over the past few weeks.

In the wake of eight UK returnees found with the new strain of virus, the state government has decided to implement the health protocol for such patients strictly. Dr Shashank Joshi, leading endocrinologist and member of the state-appointed task force for clinical management of Covid-19 patients, said that they have chalked out stricter norms for UK returnees testing positive for the new strain. “The institutional quarantine period will be longer, ranging between 14 and 21 days or more than that for these passengers. The period varies on the basis of the immune competent and immune compromised conditions of the patients. Unless and until the doctors treating them are not convinced that they are not a threat to the community and their contact tracing is not completed, they will not be allowed to go home. We have asked the state for an aggressive approach in case of these passengers and have revised the guidelines of quarantine after few of them found with the new variant,” he said.

Dr Joshi said district and state authorities have been directed to not let their guard down as the next few weeks are crucial. “The citizens should stick to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour to avoid a second wave or any spike in cases,” he added.

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