Maharashtra Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat on Monday said the decision on free vaccine against COVID-19 for people of the state should be announced by the chief minister and an attempt by others to take credit for it was not good.
Thorat's comments came a day after Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik said the state government will float global tenders for providing affordable and quality anti-COVID 19 vaccines for free to adult citizens below 45 years of age.
The NCP shares power in the state with the Shiv Sena and Congress.
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Without naming the NCP, Thorat said a discussion on providing free vaccine was underway and it was not correct to make an announcement right away to get credit for it.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"This is not good," the Congress leader told reporters.
Notably, state Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar recently said global tenders will be floated to purchase affordable and quality vaccine for citizens in the state.
Thorat said the Congress' stand over the vaccination process was clear.
"Our party chief Sonia Gandhi said vaccines should be made available free of cost. But, the announcement should be made by the chief minister," he said.
When the vaccination drive opens on May 1 for those above 18 years of age, the crowd at the inoculation centres will increase.
"There may be chaos due to crowding, leading to a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. I have spoken to the chief secretary and told him that a policy should be framed. A decision on this will be taken in two days," he said.
The minister said it was the Centre's responsibility to make available the vaccine doses to all.
"There were initial hiccups when the vaccination drive was opened for those aged above 45. Hence, a policy should first be framed for (opening the inoculation process for) those above 18 years," he said.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the state government will take a decision on providing free vaccine to citizens.
The state government does not see the crisis as an opportunity to play politics, Raut told reporters.
"The Maha Vikas Aghadi government is taking all steps to save each life. It doesn't need to indulge in politics in the time of crisis. The opposition can give constructive suggestions," the Rajya Sabha member said.
He said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the state entire cabinet were working hard to fight the pandemic.
"They are fighting for oxygen, ventilators and beds," he said.
The COVID-19 cases in Mumbai are now coming down, Raut said, and expressed hope that the number of coronavirus cases will come down across the state in some days.
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