By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Jan. Jan 16 (IANS) Exactly 10 months after recording the first Covid-19 death, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray flagged off the much-anticipated Coronavirus vaccination drive, terming it as “a revolutionary step”, here on Saturday, even as thousands of eligible people queued up for their life-saver jab across the state.
Ex-Shiv Sena Health Minister Dr. Deepak Sawant and a lady medico Dr. Madhura Patil were among the first to be given given their maiden doses at the R. N. Cooper Hospital, Vile Parle and the Bandra Kurla Complex field hospital, respectively, both in their capacity as medical frontline workers.
“With this, we have taken a revolutionary step today… During the Covid-19 pandemic, the health workers cooperated with us in a big way. Even after the vaccination, all Covid-19 precautions must continue to be observed,” Thackeray urged.
An anxious Dr. Patil took the first Covishield vaccine dose amid a huge media glare with Thackeray, Mayor Kishori Pednekar, BMC Commissioner I. S. Chahal, top ministers, civic and medical officials and other invitees standing and watching the process.
As a nurse injected the vaccine, without grimacing, Dr. Patil managed a smile behind her masked face and even displayed a ‘thumbs up’ sign.
The drive in Maharashtra – the worst-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic with maximum deaths and infections – started enthusiastically shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the national vaccination drive in New Delhi.
“The day is double auspicious for the state as it mark the 340th anniversary of the Coronation of Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje Bhosale Maharaj, the second ruler of the Maratha Empire, (Jan. 16, 1681), at Raigad,” said a government official, declining to be identified.
Exactly 10 months ago on March 17, 2020, Covid-19 claimed its first victim, a 64-year old man at the BMC’s Kasturba Hospital, and since then, the state has recorded 50,336 deaths and 19,84,768 cases till date – both highest in the country.
From today, the life-save injections are being administered at 285 centres in all the 36 districts across the state, including 9 centres in Mumbai where an average of 4,000 shall be vaccinated daily, between 9am-5 pm.
Besides Thackeray in Mumbai, other ministers, collectors and district health officers launched the vaccination drives in different parts of the state, eliciting relief and optimism after the 10-month long tensions among the masses.
“We have received 139,400 doses of Covishield Vaccine from the Serum Institute of India and so far around 1.30 lakh people have registered,” Pednekar informed.
Chahal said that as per the Centre’s guidelines, the vaccination drive will be conducted in three phases with the frontline workers, followed by sanitation and other health workers, police and those above 50 years ago, and lastly all under 50 years with co-morbidities, but people below age of 18 have not been included for the time being.
For the first two phases, people would have to register through the CoWin digital platform, officials said.
Principal Secretary (Health) Dr. Pradeep Vyas said that process starts when the intended person gets a detailed SMS on the mobile indicating the date, time, venue for the vaccination the next day.
The first vaccination drives were taken up at 9 BMC hospitals and the BKC Covid Facilitation Centre, which took up the vaccination for around 4,000 people during the day.
Subsequently, another 63 centres shall be opened which will vaccinate more than 50,000 people daily, said a BMC health official.
Over the next few days, more than 28,500 health workers and the priority groups shall be administered the dose at all the centres in the state, as per the emergency approval usage cleared by the Centre.
This week, the state received 963,000 doses of Covishield and another 20,000 vials of the Covaxin which have been despatched all over the state.
Covaxin is being administered at 6 centres in the state including medical colleges in Mumbai, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Solapur, and district hospitals in Pune and Amravati.
Congress State Spokesperson Sachin Sawant reiterated that the vaccination should be given free to all the people as assured by the PM for the people of Bihar during the assembly elections there in Nov.
In Mumbai, the BMC hopes to vaccinate more than 3.50 million citizens in the next few months for which it has trained more than 7,000 people and is in the process of training 10,000 more.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])