Health Minister Harsh Vardhan slammed the Maharashtra government on Wednesday for its handling of the pandemic’s second wave, accusing the state of instilling fear. The development comes just hours after Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar urged the Centre on Wednesday to provide the state with more vaccines as soon as possible.
Maharashtra is facing a vaccine shortage, with the state currently holding 14 lakh Covid-19 jabs that will only last three days, state health minister Rajesh Tope said earlier today, adding that many vaccination centers in the state were closing.
Pednekar had also asked Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Health Minister Rajesh Tope, and the Opposition to bring this issue to the attention of the Centre.
In response to the developments, Vardhan stated that statements made by public representatives in Maharashtra about vaccine shortages were “nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic influenza.” Asserting that allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless, Vardhan said Maharashtra’s “testing is not up to the mark and their contact tracing leaves a lot to be desired”.
In a strong statement, he said, “It is shocking to see how the state government is putting Maharashtrians in danger by letting people escape institutional quarantine mandate for the sake of their personal “vasuli”.
“Overall, as the state has lurched from one crisis to the next, it appears that the state leadership is happily sleeping at the wheel,” he said.
Concerning Chhattisgarh, he stated that the state’s leaders have made frequent comments “that are intended to spread misinformation and panic on vaccination.”
“I would like to humbly state that it would be preferable if the state government focused its energies on ramping up its health infrastructure rather than petty politicking,” Vardhan said, noting the state’s “disproportionately higher number of deaths in the last 2-3 weeks.” He also stated that the state’s testing is still heavily reliant on rapid antigen tests, which he believes is a poor strategy.
He went on to say that many other states must also improve their healthcare systems. Vardhan said when states ask to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens.
“But the facts are altogether different,” he said while pointing out that Maharashtra has vaccinated just only 86 per cent of health workers with the first dose, while the equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72 per cent and 64 per cent.