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Rajasthan Coronavirus vaccine wastage saga: From threats of legal action to ‘vaccines were expired’, here is what happened

Rajasthan Health Minister warned Dainik Bhaskar with legal action for reporting on wastage of coronavirus vaccines

After Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma threatened Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar for publishing a report on vaccine wastage in the state with legal action, the media house responded. It shared the picture of the 500 vials with the batch number and the expiry date, which the Hindi daily said its investigating team picked up from the dustbins of these various vaccine centres in Rajasthan.

OpIndia had reported on May 31 that an investigation conducted by Hindi news daily Dainik Bhaskar has found that around 500 vaccine vials discarded in dustbins in 35 vaccination centres in 8 districts in the State. These vials contained more than 2500 doses. During the probe, Bhaskar found that the wasted 500 vaccine vials were filled up to 20-75%. It has raised concerns about the claims of ‘vaccine shortage’ made by the Rajasthan government.

Hours after Dainik Bhaskar published its report posting a picture of the wasted vials to fact-check Rajasthan Health Minister’s claims of ‘misleading’ report, the minister responded. In his Tweet, the Congress alleged claimed that the picture Dainik Bhaskar has posted to substantiate its claims is that of “expired and discarded” vaccines. He claimed they have been kept in a yellow disposable bag according to the rules laid down by the Biomedical Waste Management rules of the Government of India.

The Rajasthan minister had on May 31 also taken to Twitter to post a series of Tweets, in which he called the investigative report by Dainik Bhaskar “misleading” and “bereft of facts”. He warned legal action against the journalist who wrote the “fake news”. He claimed that he has asked the State health department to conduct a detailed investigation into the report published by the Hindi daily maligning the Rajasthan government.

Following the report by Dainik Bhaskar, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on May 31 (Monday) had also written to the Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma over reports of wastage of Covid-19 vaccine doses in the state.

Citing reports published in Hindi dailies ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ and ‘Rajasthan Patrika’ over high vaccine wastage in Rajasthan, Dr Harsh Vardhan urged Raghu Sharma to look into the matter.

Dr Harsh Vardhan wrote in his letter: “In almost all districts of Rajasthan, vaccine wastage is more than the national average of less than 1%. Further, the Dainik Bhaskar article has also highlighted that more than 500 vials of Covid-19 vaccines were found in the waste bins of 35 Covid-19 vaccination centres in the state.”

“The high wastage, you would agree, is not acceptable,” he added.

The Union Health Minister also took to Twitter to share the letter he had written to Sharma. His Tweet in Hindi roughly translates to: “Taking serious cognisance of reports of wastage of Covid-19 vaccine doses in some places in Rajasthan, I’ve written a letter to state health minister @RaghuSharmaINC and urged him to look into the issue. I’ve also asked him to make better preparations at the local level to avoid wastage of vaccine doses”.

In his subsequent Tweet, he quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to write: “Wastage of even a single dose means failure in protecting an individual from Covid-19.” He added in the same tweet that all states and Union territories (UTs) should target zero vaccine wastage. Dr Harsh Vardhan shared the Dainik Bhaskar report in his Tweet to warn the Rajasthan Govt over vaccines wastage.

Dainik Bhaskar also revealed that during the investigation, its team, on May 28, found burnt Covid-19 vaccines in the drain near Lamba Harisingh Primary Health Center in Rajasthan’s Tonk district. When the doctor present there was asked about the burnt vial, he claimed they had burnt the empty vial.

When the Bhaskar team told the doctor on duty that if any person who has been inoculated developed any kind of adverse symptom and the authorities would want to know from which batch of jabs that particular person was vaccinated, then how could that be ascertained if the empty vials are not retained. The doctor reportedly told the Bhaskar team that they did not get any such order from the state government that the vial has to be preserved after vaccination.

Rajasthan Govt’s failure in handling the Covid pandemic

As per the Union government, the state has wasted about 11.50 lac Covid-19 doses between January 16 and May 17. However, the state government has alleged that only 2% of the total doses have been wasted. In the investigation conducted by Bhaskar, it found that the rate of wastage of Coronavirus vaccine doses was a whopping 25%.

The wasted vials were recovered by Bhaskar, which will be handed over to the Principal Secretary of Rajasthan Health Department Akhil Arora. He has assured to initiate an investigation into the matter.

It was earlier reported Rajasthan had recorded the highest percentage of Covid-19 vaccine wastage. Reportedly, a total of 11.5 lakh doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, which amounts to almost 7 percent, was wasted in the Congress-ruled state.

Moreover, reports had revealed last month that in Congress-ruled Rajasthan, 1,500 ventilators received under the PM CARES Fund are lying unused and unopened. These ventilators were received over ten months back. Reports stated that of these 1,500 ventilators, 230 are faulty but even amid the raging Chinese coronavirus pandemic, these ventilators have not been repaired and put to use.

The Rajasthan Government’s callousness in handling the pandemic does not end at this. On May 23, Jaipur’s largest state-run Covid-10 facility RUHS CMS Hospital recorded 442 deaths of patients on ventilator support in just 20 days. The main reason cited for these deaths was not cleaning and maintaining the ventilators on a regular basis.

On May 8, OpIndia reported how 21 people died in less than 3 weeks in a village in Rajasthan after Coronavirus protocols during the burial of an infected patient were violated.

Moreover, recently it was reported how discrepancies were found in COVID death records and the number of cremations in Rajasthan. A report by Dainik Bhaskar had pointed out that the government of Rajasthan had reported 3918 deaths between April 01 to May 20 from 25 districts, however, 14,482 cremations had taken place in just 512 village blocks during the same period. 

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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