Bihar, the third most populous state in the country and the twelfth largest in terms of area, is also home to more than two million migrant workers. The state’s relief measures for those afflicted by the deadly novel coronavirus thus, extended beyond its territorial boundaries. Bihar kicked off its vaccination drive on 16 January in the presence of senior government officials. State officials said around 30,000 healthcare workers were given the jab on the first day of the vaccination drive that began at 300 centres spread across 38 districts of Bihar.
Rollout Kicks Off
State Health Minister Mangal Pandey said 16 January was an important day for the entire country, marking as it did, the commencement of the fight against the novel coronavirus. He said, “For a long time, we were in the dark and waiting for a vaccine to protect us from Covid-19. But now the time has come.” The minister went on to say that “It is a moment of pride for us that we will be immunised with vaccines produced in our country. Dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to become atmanirbhar has come true.”
An Ambitious Target
Bihar has set itself an ambitious target of inoculating 30 million residents of the state in the first phase. Health Minister Pandey went on record to say, “We have set the target to vaccinate 10 million health workers and 20 million frontline workers. Bihar’s recovery rate or the percentage of people who had recovered out of those who had been infected, had touched 98 per cent now,” he added. The vaccination drive kicked off at 300 centres across the state where 4.68 lakh healthcare workers were reportedly vaccinated in the first phase. The first phase beneficiaries include 3,72,715 healthcare workers associated with the state government, 7,247 associated with the central government but working in Bihar and 84,198 engaged with the private healthcare sector. The Bihar health department has constituted a five -member team, which will be deployed at each vaccination centre, where a hundred people will be vaccinated each day. Trained healthcare workers were deployed at identified sites in all districts and blocks, including those in urban areas, for the vaccination drive. “Healthcare workers means all the employees giving their services in a health institute, like sanitation staff, technicians, ambulance drivers, nurses, paramedics and doctors. Even those working on contract or outsourced by an agency have been included,” explained Pratyaya Amrit, Principal Secretary in the state’s health department. He said the state had received 5,49,000 doses of Covishield and 20,000 doses of Covaxin, which were sufficient for the first phase.
The Priority Group
“Only those who are registered on CoWIN will be vaccinated,” Pratyaya Amrit said, adding that the registration for the second phase will begin on 25 January. He went on to add, “In the second phase, frontline workers like police personnel, home guard jawans, municipal workers, prison staff and those associated with disaster management will be given the shots. In the third phase, the prioritised age group, which includes those above the age of 50 years and those below the age of 50 years, but with comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension and cancer, will register themselves. The dates for the registration will be announced later.” “Around 15,000 trained health workers have been engaged in the massive vaccination drive that will continue for four days in a week — Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday,” said State Immunisation Officer N. K. Sinha. In the second phase, frontline workers such as personnel working with the police, the fire and prison departments, civil defence and municipal staff will get the vaccine. Sinha said those above 50 years of age will be given the vaccine in the third phase.
Vaccine Drug Stores
Vaccine drug stores have been set up at the state level to store the vaccine. Ten such drug stores have been set up at the regional level, 38 at the district level and 638 storage centres have been created at the block level. The Bihar health department has asked district magistrates to make arrangements for the webcast of the Covid-19 vaccination programme to monitor government session sites that are also vaccination centres. News reports emanating from the state suggest though, that most beneficiaries were reluctant to receive shots of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which is still in phase 3 trials.
The Bihar government provided financial assistance to workers stranded outside the state through the ‘Bihar Corona Sahaayta Mobile App’. An assistance of Rs 1,000 per person was provided to more than 21 lakh people, including stranded quarantined workers. The Bihar government also provided 1.64 crore ration card holding households rations for three months in advance, along with a financial assistance of Rs 1,000. The state has completed skill mapping of workers who returned home during the pandemic. The Bihar government has sanctioned Rs 809 crore from the state contingency fund for expenses to tackle the spread of Covid-19 and other relief measures.