Maharashtra will take nearly three months to complete the first phase of Covid-19 vaccination for 800,000 people, state health minister Rajesh Tope said on Thursday.

The health minister’s statement came a day ahead of the dry run for vaccination in 30 districts and 25 municipal corporation areas. The dry run is being done to detect logistical issues that may crop up in the actual immunisation drive expected to start after January 13.

Tope said, “In the first phase, we have decided to keep 80 to 100 centres. If we have to immunise 800,000 people, it’ll take about 80-90 days. We will carry out the process scientifically.” He added that the administration has already uploaded details of approximately 800,000 health workers on the CoWin app.

The minister said, “The vaccination centres will be at district hospitals, sub-district hospitals, medical college hospitals and civic n hospitals, where tertiary care is available.” Tope added that the Centre has not provided them any clarity on the time between two doses. The state has also sought clarity from the Centre on the vaccine to be provided and has also demanded more ice-lined refrigerators (ILR), deep freezers and walk-in coolers for the storage of vaccines.

Maharashtra, meanwhile, on Thursday reported three fresh cases of the mutated strain of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The three new cases are from Pimpri-Chinchwad, state health department officials said. The total cases of the new variant in the state have now risen to 11. On Monday, eight samples tested positive for the new variant, which originated from the United Kingdom (UK) and is said to be 70% more transmissible than the original strain.

A health department update stated all 11 patients are asymptomatic, of which two — one each from Mumbai and Pune — were discharged after completing 14 days of quarantine and their two consecutive samples were found negative by an RT-PCR test.

Of the 11 cases, one person is from Gujarat and the other is from Goa.

The state reported 3,729 fresh Covid-19 cases on Thursday, taking the total to 1,95,82,82. The state also reported 72 fresh fatalities, taking the toll closer to the 50,000 mark at 49,897. Mumbai added 665 fresh cases on Thursday, taking its tally to 296,985. Mumbai reported seven fatalities, pushing the toll in the city to 11,162.

Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said the dry run will help the administration find out any logistical issues, including the usefulness of the CoWin app, before the actual vaccination starts.

“As per the guidelines of the Centre, a dry run will be carried out in Maharashtra’s 30 districts and 25 municipal corporation areas. Each district will have three centres, while the municipal areas will have one vaccine centre in the dry run,” said Tope in a statement. Last week, the state had conducted a small-scale dry run in four districts and two municipal corporation areas.

A statement from the health department said the dry run will show if problems exist in storage, supply and administration, and these will be ironed out. The statement said it will help check out how convenient and useful the CoWin app. Besides that, it will help the planning, implementation and reporting of coronavirus vaccination, verification and inspection of all these matters, before starting the actual vaccination.

The state health minister participated in the meeting with Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan held via video-conferencing over the vaccination drive. “The meeting was to take stock of the preparation, but we do not have much clarity on the vaccine that will be provided. They [Centre] have said that they would inform us [about the vaccine]. They have categorically told us to carry out vaccination in tertiary care centres, a clarification we had sought,” the minister told HT.

Tope said the state has sought several changes in the CoWin application. The state has also demanded only one of the two vaccinations, so as to maintain uniformity. “We have sought many changes in the CoWin app. We also demanded that only one vaccine should be given to us. Because one vaccine’s second dose could be after 30 days, while the other’s maybe after 45 days, it would create confusion. We have given them details about our shortage in the ILR, deep freezers, walk-in coolers. We need 667 ILCs, but so far they have provided 101, we asked for the remaining.

“We asked time slots to be specified for people to arrive at Centres. In absence of timing, people may crowd at vaccination centres. Besides, in the app, we need bifurcation for ones who refuse to take the vaccine, since it is for emergency use now,” Tope added.

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