Amidst some minor glitches and controversy, the COVID-19 vaccination drive by and large went on smoothly across 207 centres in West Bengal with about 8,000 people getting vaccinated on Saturday (January 16), the first day of the programme.
Some TMC leaders were among those who got the jab on the first day meant for health workers, triggering a controversy. In East Burdwan district, TMC legislators Rabindranath Chatterjee from Katwa and Subhash Mondal from Bhatar were among those inoculated on the first day of the immunisation drive.
Another TMC MLA Sourav Chakraborty’s name was also there in the list of recipients. But the Alipurduar MLA did not take the jab following controversy about inclusion of his name along with COVID warriors for vaccination.
West Bengal’s Minister of State for Labour Nirmal Maji also received the Covishield vaccine at the Kolkata Medical College and Hospital. Maji is a doctor by profession.
Health department officials, however, defended administering vaccines to the legislators along with health workers saying MLAs got the dose for being members of patient welfare committees (PWCs).
“Names of those involved with the PWCs were also sent for vaccination in the first phase. Katwa MLA Chatterjee is also member of the local PWC and, hence, his name was enlisted. There is nothing wrong in this. He was actively involved with the welfare activities of the hospital during pandemic,” medical superintendent of Katwa sub-divisional hospital Nabarun Gupta said.
Chatterjee said he took the vaccine as his name was in the list.
Chief Medical Officer of Health East Burdwan Pranab Roy also echoed Gupta’s view saying public representatives associated with the PWCs could also get priority in vaccination.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, as chairman of the PWC of Alipurduar district hospital, I was in the forefront in the battle against the virus. So district authorities included my name for the vaccination. I am honoured by their recognition of my service. But I will not take the vaccine now. I will get vaccinated with common people in later phase,” said Chakraborty.
The BJP, however, did not miss the opportunity to take pot shots at the TMC saying the ruling party leaders were racing to get vaccines meant for COVID warriors.
The state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said it was the culture of the TMC to corner benefits of all welfare schemes in the state.
“What if they are the members of the PWCs? They are not frontline workers. May be even in the list of beneficiaries for PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, the state government will send names of TMC leaders,” he said
“It is very shameful on their (TMC leaders’) part to enrol themselves for the vaccination drive when it is clearly mentioned that these vaccines are meant for health workers,” said state BJP leader Ganga Prasad Sharma.
The vaccination drive also faced glitches as the COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) application, developed by the Centre to monitor and track the inoculation process, did not work properly, forcing officials to keep records manually.
The data of the vaccine recipient was supposed to be uploaded through the CoWIN, but since Friday (January 15) night, the app was not working properly, a health department official said.
In some centres, the application was not opening, while in others it was working very slowly, compelling officials to record names and details of the beneficiaries on paper.
Other than these minor glitches, the drive went smoothly, officials added.
Around 90,000 frontline health workers of government and private hospitals have been enrolled for the first phase of the vaccination drive in the state. An estimated 20,700 health workers were enrolled for the vaccination on Saturday.
For the first-phase of the drive, 6,44,500 ampoules of “Covishield” arrived in Kolkata on Wednesday (January 13) afternoon from the Serum Institute in Pune.
The vaccination drive will resume on Monday (January 18) in West Bengal.