P rime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that health and frontline workers would get priority in getting the Covid vaccine when it arrives. Seeking better Centre-state cooperation for a seamless vaccine distribution mechanism, PM Modi subtly showed his displeasure over the politics being played visà-vis the issue. “Our priority is to make vaccine available for all. States should put in the necessary mechanism including cold storage,” he said.
PM Modi said this while chairing a meeting with CMs of all states and UTs via video conferencing, to review the status and preparedness of Covid-19 response and management, with special emphasis on eight high focus states Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.
The Prime Minister, during the interaction, made it amply clear that it is the “duty” of the nation to vaccinate frontline workers first. He also stressed that the vaccine distribution system must be transparent, to allay the fears of many Indians.
The Prime Minister also mentioned how the reaction of people to the situation of pandemic can be broken down to four stages. “The first was of fear, when people reacted in panic. The second stage saw cropping up of doubts about the virus, when several people tried to hide that they had been afflicted by it. The third stage was of acceptance, when people became more serious about the virus and displayed greater alertness. In the fourth stage, with increasing recovery rate, people have developed a false notion of security from the virus, thus leading to rise in instances of negligence. Prime Minister emphasized that it is of utmost importance to increase awareness about the seriousness of the virus in this fourth stage.”
PM Modi reassured that the government is keeping a close watch on the development of vaccines and is in contact with Indian developers and manufacturers, along with global regulators, governments of other countries, multilateral institutions and international companies. He added that it will be ensured that the vaccine for citizens will meet all necessary scientific criteria. He underlined that just like the focus in the fight against Covid has been on saving each and every life, the priority will be to ensure that the vaccine reaches everyone.
The PM said that the priority of vaccination is being decided in consultation with the states. The requirements of additional cold chain storages have also been discussed with the states. He asked the Chief Ministers to ensure regular monitoring of the State Level Steering Committee and state and district level task force to ensure better results. He forewarned that past experience tells us several myths and rumours are spread around vaccines. Rumours about side effects of the vaccine may be spread. He emphasised that such attempts need to be tackled through spreading greater awareness by taking all possible help including civil society, students of NCC, NSS and the media.
He said that it is important to increase RT-PCR tests, ensure better monitoring of patients, especially those inhome isolation, better equip health centres at village and community level and keep running awareness campaigns for safety from the virus. He said the target should be to bring down the fatality rate below 1%.
The Prime Minister also hit out at some leaders, who has recently criticised the government over the vaccine issue. “We cannot decide when the vaccine will come. It is not in our hands, it is the scientists who are dealing with the issue,” sources quoted PM Modi as saying. “Some people are playing politics over it. Nothing can stop anyone from playing politics,” he added.
Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani said: “The PM made it clear that in the first stage the vaccine will be given to the frontline health workers; in the second stage to the police personnel, sanitation workers etc, to those above 50 years of age in third stage and to those with co-morbid conditions in the fourth stage.”
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal informed the Prime Minister that Delhi saw a peak of 8,600 cases on 10 November in the third peak. Since then, cases and positivity rate are steadily decreasing. He sought the Prime Minister’s intervention to stop stubble burning in the neighbouring states. “The high severity of third wave is due to many factors. Pollution is an important factor,” Kejriwal said. The CM also sought reservation of additional 1,000 ICU beds in Central government hospitals till the third wave lasts.
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said he is in a constant touch with Adar Poonawalla of Serum Institute and that the state has formed a task force to ensure timely distribution of vaccine and executing the vaccination programme.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday that the state government will collaborate with the Centre in the implementation of the vaccination programme. She added that figures in her state reflected the fact that hers was a border state with patients coming in from Bangladesh and Bhutan and also from other Indian states.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel said that his state had already set up 630 cold chain points, with 80 more to be set up with a capacity of 85,000 litre storage. His state had also put in place 8,192 vaccinators and 27,931 spot workers for the endeavour.