Available vaccines prioritised for those above 45 years needing the second dose
The Maharashtra Cabinet on Wednesday decided to pause the COVID-19 vaccination drive for individuals in the 18 to 44 years age group for time being. The government has decided to prioritise available vaccines for individuals above 45 years who have their second dose pending.
State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said after the Cabinet meeting, “We are doing this for time being. It is because we have no vaccines left. Presently, we get vaccines from two companies only. Therefore, the Central government cannot supply enough vaccines for the vaccination of those above 45 years. It is mandatory to give second dose to ensure effectiveness of first. As a result, the vaccine the State government purchased for 18 to 44 (years) will be diverted completely to those above 45 years.”
Mr. Tope said that Adar Poonawala, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, had informed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray that he would deliver one-and-a-half crore vaccines per month after May 20. “Decision on 18 to 44 (years) will be taken thereafter, considering the availability of vaccines,” he said. The Minister added that the decision to divert all available vaccines for those above 45 years was a scientific decision, important for their health.
The Minister said that the government was prepared to place a global tender but the Centre needed to approve vaccines from other companies such as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. “Once it is done, we will issue global tenders. We have decided that the Chief Minister will write to the Prime Minister, explaining to him the situation about vaccines,” he said.
In Maharashtra, around 16 lakh individuals given the first shot of Covishield, and 4 lakh individuals given the first shot of Covaxin, await the second jab. “At present, we have 7 lakh doses of Covishield and 3 lakh doses of Covaxin. We will deliver to all those above 45 years within three days now,” he said.
Mr. Tope said that the lockdown called by the State government had helped curb the increase in cases. “We discussed the issue of lockdown in Cabinet. There are several other challenges such as the growth [in numbers] of Mucormycosis (a type of fungal infection). Several districts are still showing a rise in the number of cases. Many Ministers conveyed that the lockdown needs to be increased by 15 more days,” he said.
Under ‘Mission Oxygen’, each district will be producing medical oxygen as per its requirement. The State Cabinet also decided to encourage companies producing oxygen using ASU (air separation unit) and PSA (pressure swing absorption) technologies. “The government will encourage companies through different incentives such as registration fee waiver, reduction in power tariff, stamp duty waiver, GST exemption. These steps are are to make Maharashtra self-reliant on medical oxygen,” the State Health Minister said.
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