The Bihar Post

COVID-19: Bihar to turn Durga puja pandals into vaccination centres

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PATNA—Stepping up its fight against the deadly COVID-19, the Bihar government has decided to convert important puja pandals dedicated to Hindu deity Durga into vaccination centres to inoculate those who missed to get vaccine shots so far.

Thousands of pandals are erected across the state during the nine-day-long Navratri festival and the government sees in them a golden opportunity to vaccinate the eligible population.

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Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey said he had instructed all the district magistrates as well district civil surgeons to make arrangements for vaccination at the prominent puja pandals which attract large crowds of people. The minister has also asked the civil surgeons to coordinate with the puja committees and select spots for vaccination there.

“We have instructed all the district magistrates as well as the civil surgeons to carry out vaccination works at important puja pandals with complete responsibility. We want that no village is left out of the vaccination,” the health minister told the media on Thursday.

The minister informed that the government had already arranged for more than 2.5 million vaccine doses for the purposes. According to health officials, doctors and health workers will be deployed at the puja pandals to carry out vaccinations to persons deprived of vaccinations due to various reasons so far.

The state government has administered over 58.6 million doses so far out of Bihar’s total population of 104 million. The state’s first dose vaccine coverage has reached around 65 per cent while the second dose coverage is around 27 per cent.

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Amid the ongoing awareness campaign to convince the unvaccinated groups to reach vaccination centres, the health department is also busy mulling a strategy to inoculate those who are bed-ridden, differently-abled and the old and infirm who can’t come to the government’s run vaccination centres.

According to an official report, the state has some 2.33 million population categorized under “disabled”.

For this, the health department has now planned to rush mobile vaccination vans at the villages to target such a population. The department has already deployed 725 such vans to inoculate villagers in the countryside.

“As the number of eligible population for vaccination has come down, we are now trying to reach out to the persons who are old and infirm who have restricted mobility and are unable to reach our vaccination centres,” state health society’s executive director Sanjay Kumar Singh told the media on Thursday.

According to him, during the recent polio vaccination drive, the department had asked the polio supervisors to find out persons who were left out of the COVID-19 vaccination. “They have marked such houses. Now we are trying to persuade them to take the vaccine as soon as possible,” the health official said.

COVID-19 has claimed a total of 9,661 lives and left 725,975 people infected in Bihar so far, according to a latest report of the state health department.

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