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NEW DELHI : In a scathing statement, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said some state governments and political leaders were playing politics over covid and spreading panic among people to distract attention from their failure to deal with the pandemic.

“Playing politics is easy, but improving governance and health infrastructure is the real test," he said, adding that some states had failed to contain the surge in cases and improve vaccination efforts.

Harsh Vardhan criticized the section of leaders who are demanding that vaccines be made available to everyone above 18 years, or to drastically lower the minimum age criteria for eligibility. He said the primary aim of vaccination is to reduce mortality among the most vulnerable sections of people, and enable the society to beat the pandemic. “So long as the supply of vaccines are limited, there is no option but to prioritize," he added.

When states are asking to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare and frontline workers and senior citizens. But the fact is altogether different, he said.

Maharashtra has vaccinated only 86% of health workers with the first dose. The equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72% and 64%. In comparison, 10 states and UTs have vaccinated over 90% of the target groups, he said. Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41% of healthcare workers with the second dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 41% and 27%, he added. “Doesn’t it seem evident that these states are trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goal-posts? Politicizing such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better."

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