The Bihar government on Tuesday approved a proposal to provide free coronavirus vaccines to all the people of the state, PTI reported. The decision was made at the first Cabinet meeting since the allocation of ministerial berths last month.
The provision for free vaccines was part of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s “Saat Nishchay Part-2” or seven resolves ahead of the Assembly elections. The Cabinet gave its approval for all the government’s proposals covered under the “Saat Nishchay”, including the creation of 20 lakh jobs in the next five years.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishore Prasad said that free inoculation was the National Democratic Alliance’s main promise ahead of Assembly elections in the state, the Hindustan Times reported. “Our decision is a big gift to people of the state after formation of the government,” he was quoted as saying. “We feel Bihar’s biggest strength is its human resource and we want them to be protected against the deadly disease as the world is battling with the pandemic.”
An unidentified government official told the newspaper that a detailed report on the immunisation drive would be prepared soon. “In the first round, the health workers may be given the doses followed by people above 60 and then 50,” the official added.
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Bihar has registered more than 2.4 lakh coronavirus cases and 1,325 deaths so far, according to the Union health ministry.
The Bharatiya Janata Party was heavily criticised by the Opposition in October for politicising the coronavirus crisis by promising free vaccines in its manifesto ahead of the Bihar elections.
The governments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have also promised free vaccines to the people.
India has not signed a deal for a coronavirus vaccine yet so it is unclear when it will be available for use in the country. It is likely that the Centre may approve some coronavirus vaccines over the next few weeks. The final call on the efficacy of a vaccine will be taken by the Drugs Controller General of India.
The Centre has, however, begun preparations for the vaccination drive. The government’s plan involves five-member vaccination teams inoculating 100 to 200 people in each session per day, internet-enabled sites, and using the latest electoral roll to identify priority population over the age of 50.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at a press briefing on Tuesday that storage arrangements for the vaccine would include 29,000 cold chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar refrigerators.