New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday hit out at states for making “irresponsible” statements on COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, calling it "deplorable attempts by some state governments to distract attention from their failures and spread panic among the people".

In a press release, the Health Minister said he was “alarmed” to note the fact that many state governments had “failed to take appropriate response measures and apply the lessons that the nation has learned over the past one year of handling this pandemic”.

Slamming the Maharashtra government, which raised the alarm over the alleged shortage of vaccine stock in the state, Vardhan said that the claims of shortage of vaccines were "utterly baseless". 

He was it was shocking how the Maharashtra government "endangered people by letting them escape COVID institutional quarantine mandate for sake of 'personal vasuli'."

"Allegations of vaccine shortage utterly baseless. Throughout last year as Union Health Minister I've been witness to misgovernance and casual approach of Maharashtra Government in battling virus. Their lackadaisical attitude singularly bogged down country’s efforts to fight virus," he said. 

He also criticised recent appeals by state governments on extending the age limit of those eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, pointing out to supply constraints that had already been communicated to said governments. “Most concerning of all are the statements being made by a section of political leaders asking to open up vaccination to everyone above the age of 18, or to drastically lower the minimum age criteria for vaccination eligibility,” he said.

He further said many other states also need to bring their healthcare systems up to the mark.

"For example, quality of testing needs to improve in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Punjab, high Case Fatality Rate needs to be improved by early identification of those needing hospitalisation," he said.

Vardhan said when states ask to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens.

"But the facts are altogether different," he said while pointing out that Maharashtra has vaccinated just only 86 per cent of health workers with the first dose, while the equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72 per cent and 64 per cent.

On the other hand, 10 Indian states/UTs have done more than 90 per cent, he added.

The minister further said Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41 per cent of healthcare workers with the second dose, while the same for Delhi and Punjab are 41 per cent and 27 per cent, though there are 12 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 60 per cent.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta