'Centre seems hell-bent to project things in poor light': Jharkhand trashes charges of 37.3 per cent vaccine wastage

RANCHI: Hitting out at the Centre, the Jharkhand government on Wednesday said it is wrong to project vaccine wastage proportion is as high as 37.3 per cent in the state whereas the fact remained that it is much below the national average and currently stands at 4.65 per cent.

The Jharkhand government retort comes a day after the centre said despite urging states repeatedly to keep vaccine wastage below 1 per cent, many states such as Jharkhand (37.3 pc) were reporting much higher wastage than the national average (6.3 pc).

The opposition BJP latched on the issue to attack JMM- Congress-RJD coalition government and sought to know as who is responsible for such a high wastage of vaccine in the state.

Chief minister Hemant Soren lashed out at the centre, saying how can one imagine that Jharkhand will allow its “suraksha kavach” (protective gear) to go waste? Asserting how can a state allow about lakh of doses go waste, Soren said it was explained to the centre that poor connectivity in forest areas and lack of network issues are behind slow updation of data.

“However, the centre seems hell-bent to project things in a poor light which is causing problem to poor states like Jharkhand. This is why the state had gone to the Supreme Court for allowing its platform for vaccination,” Soren told PTI.

Jharkhand’s nodal officer for COVID-19 vaccination A Dodde said, “It is wrong to project that the vaccine wastage percentage is as high as 37.3 per cent whereas it is 4.65 per cent, much below the national average of 6.3 percent.

“Jharkhand with its tough terrains, difficulties, geographical complexities and technical glitches has not been able to update data,” he told PTI.

State Health minister Banna Gupta accused the centre of tarnishing the state’s image on the basis of “false data and projections”.

Dodde said the facts were explained to government of India officials in a meeting on Tuesday in which the centre advised states and UTs to plan for scaling up vaccination coverage through available stocks and anticipated supplies till the end of June.

The private hospitals were advised not to allow offline vaccine registration and all registration should be online.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had held a review meeting through video conference with administrators from states and UTs on the progress of vaccination, modifications on CoWIN software that will provide more flexibility to vaccine administrators,along with the effective implementation of SOPs for containment and management of COVID (particularly in areas underserved by health infrastructure).

A detailed presentation on the progress of the countrywide vaccination drive was presented, with a focus on states and UTs that are lagging behind in providing coverage to the vulnerable population groups.

“Whereas states have been urged repeatedly to keep vaccine wastage below 1 per cent, many states such as Jharkhand (37.3 pc), Chhattisgarh (30.2 pc), Tamil Nadu (15.5 pc), Jammu and Kashmir (10.8 pc), Madhya Pradesh (10.7 pc) are reporting much higher wastage than the national average (6.3 pc),” Union Health Ministry had said.

The chief minister’s office said the state government is fully focused on utilising its available vaccine doses in the most prudent manner possible ensuring minimal wastage.

“We hope to minimise it further with more focused vaccination awareness campaigns in deep forested and other rural areas of the state,” it said.

Officials said total vaccines supplied to all districts is 48.63 lakh while total vaccines utilised is 40.12 lakh and the wastage percentage comes to 4.63 per cent.

The state said it has 6.56 lakh doses of vaccines available with it.

The vaccine wastage issue triggered a political row in Jharkhand.

State BJP President and MP Deepak Prakash launching a scathing attack on state government for “high wastage of vaccine” sought to know from the state government as to who was responsible for this – state or the centre.

Congress leader and state’s health minister Banna Gupta said, “The central government is trying to malign the state with fake statistics. It is misleading the entire country with such fake data.”

He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have a look at the state’s data.

Fearing exclusion of a large chunk of the tribal people in the ongoing vaccination drive against COVID-19 due to non- availability of smartphones among many of them and access to internet in remote areas, the Jharkhand government had earlier filed a plea with the Supreme Court for directions to use its own “more user-friendly” platform for registration.

The JHAR-WIN app, the officials said worked both online and offline and is backed up with a call centre to facilitate registration of low-digitally literate population group and can provide on the spot registration at vaccination centres, officials had said.

They said it was suited to a state with as high as about 27 per cent tribal population.