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‘Reservation’ in the COVID-19 vaccine process? Chhattisgarh’s Congress CM writes to PM Modi, suggests ‘socially weaker’ be given priority

Interestingly, Chhattisgarh has announced that it would offer the vaccines for free to its people. Therefore, the 'economically weaker' and 'socially weaker' sections are already getting the vaccines for free.

The Indian government has opened the vaccination process for those between the ages of 18 and 45. The state government and private hospitals are now beginning the process of vaccinating those between the ages of 18 and 45, while the central government is moving ahead with its planned vaccination process, focussing on those above the age of 45. In the process, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel has now demanded a form of ‘reservation’ for the socially weaker sections in the COVID-19 vaccine process.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who is a Congress leader, has suggested that the government implement a form of reservation in the vaccine process. Writing a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he has written that an order of priority for vaccination should be fixed in the age category of 18-44 years, and priority should be given to the socially and economically weaker sections, in the light of the shortage of vaccine.

Baghel has also suggested that on-sight registration be offered for the preferred lot so that nobody is deprived of the vaccination since right now, the registration is only online.

The Congress leader claims that there is a shortage of vaccine and due to that, it is imperative that “socially weaker” and “economically weaker” sections are given the vaccine first. It is pertinent to note that while several Congress-ruled states are talking about the shortage of vaccines, Karnataka has placed an order for 1 crore vaccine doses to inoculate those between the ages of 18 and 44.

Interestingly, Chhattisgarh has announced that it would offer the vaccines for free to its people. And that was a wise and fair decision by several states, including Chhattisgarh since many who are economically weaker might not be able to afford the vaccine if they want to get inoculated before their phased vaccination, where the central government would provide it for free.

While phased vaccinations are the norm worldover, demanding that “socially weaker” sections be given priority makes no scientific sense. Government grant prioritisation to those who at a higher risk and offer vaccine for free for those who are economically weaker. The only sense that demanding prioritisation of ‘socially weaker’ sections makes is political and certainly not scientific.

In an order released on Friday (April 23) by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), it has laid down guidelines for facilitating the systematic implementation of Phase III of the vaccination drive. The guidelines have been issued keeping in mind the cohort size, the number of individuals are eligible for vaccination during a particular phase. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has specified that all efforts should be made to control overcrowding and law and order situation.

The order stated that it will be mandatory for both public and private covid vaccination centres to register on the CoWIN app, record details of all vaccination, issue digital certificates and report to CoWIN and AEFI (Adverse Event Following Immunization) systems. All previous guidelines required for a health facility to be considered a Covid Vaccination Centre (CVC) will remain unchanged. This includes the availability of sufficient cold chain equipment, capacity, trained vaccinators, rooms, and the ability to managed AEFI.

The private hospitals, which will provide vaccination services, can procure the vaccines directly from the manufacturers but only from the supply not meant for the Government of India. It may be noted that the manufacturers will sell 50% vaccine doses to the central govt, and the rest 50% to both state governments and private hospitals. The private CVCs should declare the types of vaccines, stockpile, and their prices on the CoWIN app. “All vaccination slots at private CVCs will continue to be offered only for online appointment from CoWIN or Arogya Setu. On-site registration/ appointments will be allowed only if any doses are left in the last opened vial(s) so as to minimize vaccine wastages,” the order clarified.

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