GUWAHATI: Even though the Union health ministry has cautioned the states to be prepared for a third wave of Covid-19, about 70% of the population in the state is still waiting to get immunized. This was informed by state health minister Keshab Mahanta in a reply to Congress MLA and leader of the Opposition, Debabrata Saikia, on Friday.
Mahanta informed the House that out of 2.37 crore estimated 18+ people in the state, 85.41 lakh people have been vaccinated. Of them, 70.71 lakh got the first dose, while 14.69 lakh received the second jab. "Nearly 30% of the projected 18+ population of Assam has been vaccinated. Out of this, around 7% got both the doses."
"The second dose is being given within the prescribed time. No one missed the second shot. The districts returned the Covaxin doses to us after administering the second jab to the listed beneficiaries," Mahanta added.
Earlier Saikia raised concern over the slow pace of vaccination in Assam as daily only around 43,000 people in the state are being vaccinated. At this rate, he said vaccinating the total adult population of the state would take two-and-a-half years. Saikia further said the target of three lakh vaccinations per day could not be achieved by the state health department as insisted in June. Mahanta, however, blamed lack of ample supply of vaccines for slowing down the vaccination process. He said Assam has received around 85 lakh vaccines till date, calling it a significant number. "A lot depends on the production of vaccines. Assam has been able to vaccinate many more people than many other states," he added.
"From June 21 to June 23, during the mega vaccination drive, 9.84 lakh people were vaccinated in Assam. As on date we have the mechanism to inoculate five lakh beneficiaries every day, if there is sufficient supply," Mahanta informed. He said vaccines worth Rs 43 crore were bought by the state government till the Centre supplied them free for the entire adult population.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pijush Hazarika, in his defence of the vaccination drive in the state, said confusion was created in the minds of the people by some leaders of the Congress and the Samajwadi Party at the national level regarding the efficacy of the doses and this lead to some wastage of the vaccines.
Congress legislator Wazed Ali Choudhury refuted the charges levelled against Congress leaders as being baseless. "People are demanding vaccines in char areas (riverine areas) but there is no vaccine. I would like to ask the health minister whether he would make provisions of vaccination in riverine hospitals in the chars (sand bars)," Choudhury said.
Mahanta accepted the suggestion and assured steps would be taken for the char areas as is being done in remote hilly areas where mobile medical teams are being deployed for the purpose of vaccination. Vaccine hesitancy in the riverine areas inhabited by the minority community was a major concern earlier, but now the health department has been able to convince them of the need for total immunisation.
Congress MLAs protested against the shortage of vaccines in their constituencies and the assembly was adjourned till 3 pm by the speaker