Uddhav Thackeray launches ‘revolutionary’ drive, cautions ‘can’t afford to let guard down’

The vaccination drive against Covid-19, inaugurated state-wide by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday, saw some technical glitches in the Co-Win app, a software designed for real-time registering of data of people who are vaccinated.

State health authorities said no vaccination rounds were planned on Sunday, and the next round will be held only after the glitches are sorted.

With the software not being able to generate lists of those who were to receive the vaccine on Saturday nor enter their particulars as they received the shot, vaccinating teams relied on excel sheets to enter the data. Officials said this data would be uploaded into the app once the wrinkles are smoothed out.

State Health Secretary Pradip Vyas said the problem was triggered due to a bug in the Co-Win app on Friday, because of which on the first day, beneficiaries could not be alerted automatically by SMS, and had to be manually messaged or phoned. He said if the problems were resolved on Sunday, the drive could resume on Monday, if not by Tuesday.

Of the 28,500 health workers who had been listed to get the vaccine on the inaugural day, Maharashtra recorded a turnout of 64.3 per cent (18,328) workers. Hingoli recorded 100 per cent turnout of health workers, while Mumbai had the least at 48.5 per cent.

Flagging off the vaccination on Saturday, Thackeray described it as ‘a revolutionary step’ in the battle against the pandemic, also cautioning that the vaccine must not make people complacent as the threat of the disease remained, and emphasising the need to continue wearing masks.

Inaugurating the vaccination programme at the jumbo Coivd-19 Centre at the Bandra Kurla Complex, Thackeray recalled the days when the centre was filled with patients, and praised the efforts of frontline doctors, nurses and other frontline staff at hospitals for taking on the task of treatment at great risk to themselves.

“Those days still give me shivers. The situation was really worrying. Hospitals were flooded with Covid-19 patients. How to proceed was a big question before everyone and no solution was in sight. Everyone was under pressure because of the situation,” he said.

Thackeray flagged the need to continue wearing masks. “The threat is still to pass. Many may be deluded into thinking that the vaccine is here, and hence we can afford to let our guard down. Vaccination has just begun. So far, we have fought this threat using three measures i.e. masks, washing hands and maintaining physical distancing,” the CM said. He appealed to citizens to follow these guidelines until such time when Covid-19 is completely eradicated.

“People must continue wearing masks in public places even after receiving vaccine doses. The way Covid-19 cases are once again found in large numbers in some of the countries, we may face a similar situation,” he said.

Health department officials said they had expected a higher turnout but were not overly worried that not all the frontline workers showed up to get their first shot.

“We were expecting 100 per cent turnout. All beneficiaries were informed a day in advance,” said Dr D N Patil, state immunisation officer. He said a new vaccine yields some extent of worry. “In early days, people wait and watch. This is natural,” he said.

Mumbai had registered 4,000 people for the first day of inoculation, but less than 2,000 turned up. It was the only city in the state to record less than 50 per cent turnout.

BMC Executive Health Officer Dr Mangala Gomare said the turnout was not bad for the first day.

“This is just the first day of vaccination and it was a weekend. That could have affected the turnout. We expect the numbers to improve in the coming days. People were, in fact, eager to come for immunisation,” she said. Gomare added that BMC went a step ahead and called each beneficiary for vaccination instead of just texting them. “We had made a list of private doctors, public doctors, ANMs, nurses from public and government hospitals to get a diverse pool from each sector,” she added.

Sangli, Kolhapur, Ratnagiri, Gadchiroli, Sindhudurg, Chandrapur and Nanded saw turnouts between 51 to 55 per cent. In Gadchiroli, a mostly tribal district, awareness about vaccine remains low.

The only districts to see remarkable participation were Dhule, Buldhana, Parbhani, Beed and Solapur, which recorded 90 per cent or more health workers in vaccine centres. These districts saw almost all hospital staffers ready to get their immunisation against Covid-19. Across Maharashtra, 285 vaccination sites were set up, most were open until 5 pm.

State officials said a few health workers were refused vaccination as they did not fit in the inclusion criteria— most of these were pregnant women, lactating women, or people with active Covid infection.

N Ramaswamy, director of the National Health Mission, said the state will not hold a second vaccination drive on Sunday. “Vaccination will be carried out four days a week,” he said.

Dr Archana Patil, Director, Family Welfare, said state officials will hold a meeting next week to finalise the next date for vaccination. “The beneficiaries will be informed a day or two in advance. We have to resolve Co-WIN related technical problems too before the next round,” she said. State officials on Saturday communicated the glitch in Co-WIN software to the central government in a feedback meeting.

District officials have also been instructed to start gathering data of frontline workers— comprising municipal staff, police, defence, BEST bus drivers and conductors, security— for the second phase of vaccination. Maharashtra has an estimated 20 lakh frontline workers. Districts will start uploading the data from January 25 on the Co-Win portal.

After the inauguration by the chief Minister at BKC, doctors from the state vaccination task force were among the first to get the shot at BKC Covid Centre, including Dr Shashank Joshi, Dr Rahul Pandit and Dr Gautam Bhanshali.