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Maharashtra: State Health Minister’s home district got huge surplus of vaccine doses while other areas suffered from scarcity

It is imperative to note that on March 31, Jalna had only 773 active cases which were lower than at least 30 districts. In terms of daily vaccinations, its figure of 600-1,000 till March end put it among the 10 lowest-performing districts.

The state of Maharashtra ran out of vaccines from April 7 to 9 forcing the vaccination centres to shut despite the Centre claiming that the state should have stocks available for a few more days.

While most vaccination centres were locked due to an acute shortage, the city of Jalna was sitting on a surplus that would last at least 10 more days, as per a report in Indian Express.

This is because NCP leader and Maharashtra’s Home Minister Rajesh Tope, whose hometown happens to be Jalna, was allotted an excess of 60,000 vaccine doses while the quota was just 17,000 doses.

The extra doses were sent from the fresh supplies of 26.77 lakh doses received by the state from the Centre on March 31 to be distributed to all districts.

The Indian Express report said that Tope had called the Health Department officials and ordered them to increase the allocation to his district to 77,000 doses. Tope, however, denying the claims said, “no particular district was preferred” and insisted that if Jalna received more stocks, it was only “to encourage more vaccination”. 

Discrimination in supplies

It is imperative to note that on March 31, Jalna had only 773 active cases which was lower than at least 30 districts. In terms of daily vaccinations, its figure of 600-1,000 till March end put it among the 10 lowest-performing districts.

So while the other districts recorded more numbers of new coronavirus cases and a better vaccination administration percentage, the Health Minister’s district was given a priority.

Aurangabad, which is one of the six divisional storage centres for vaccines in the state, had diverted 60,000 doses from Aurangabad to Jalna on April 1 on the orders of State immunisation officer Dr DN Patil. Aurangabad had received 1.95 lakh doses, based on its 7,000-8,000 daily vaccinations.

At that point Jalna was conducting just 600-1000 vaccinations a day which means the district had enough vaccine doses for 15-18 days when stocks in other districts had depleted to suffice for only for five to ten days. Only after receiving the extra doses, did Jalna increase daily vaccinations to 3,000-5,000 in the first week of April.

This was also the period when the state of Maharashtra had made frantic calls to the Centre for more supplies.

The district of Beed which was clocking more cases of Covid-19 and better performance in vaccination drive received lesser doses. Only nine districts with vaccination numbers higher than that of Jalna received more stocks than the district on April 1 as per the report.

Jalna made to transfer excess stock

Sources informed that Tope “insisted” on allotting Jalna more stock from the huge supply received from Centre. 

District health officials informed that they requested the state government, including Tope, to urgently send more stocks. “We reasoned with the minister that stocks in Jalna would sit for days as other districts suffered. He eventually agreed to divert stocks from Jalna,” an official said.

With Jalna sitting on around 50,000 doses around April 07, 25 vaccination centres in Mumbai were shut due to shortage.

Finally, on April 08, Jalna was made to transfer 15,000 doses, to Washim, Yavatmal and Parbhani. However, “A few centres could not function for a day-and-a-half,” said Dr Avinash Aaher, Washim’s district health officer.

Devendra Fadnavis hits back at Maharashtra government

Leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis had lashed out on the MVA government on April 08 when demands were made to the Centre to increase vaccine supplies.

He said that vaccine supply is not based on population but vaccination performance. Posting a screenshot of a tweet from Maharashtra DGIPR, Fadnavis claimed, “Maharashtra received 1.06 crore vaccines. The tweet was made by DGIPR on April 6. 91 lakh vaccines were used. That means there are 1.5 million vaccines left. So, what is the reason for deliberately closing the Centre today and spreading false news about vaccines?.”

New cases in Maharashtra

As per PIB data, the state of Maharashtra has begun to register more recoveries than new cases. In the past 24 hours, the state recorded 51,880 new Covid-19 cases, 65,934 recoveries and 891 deaths. 

The Covid fatality rate in Maharashtra stands at 1.49%.

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