New Delhi: The Centre has asked states and union territories to refrain from approving additional categories as frontline workers for vaccination, and recommended doing so using only vaccines procured directly by them. The missive from Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan came after states like Odisha included railway staff, forest guards, oxygen plant employees and other categories as front line workers (FLW).
“It has been learnt that some states/UTs are approving additional categories of persons as FLWs belonging to different departments (like govt departments of banking, railways, and transport etc). “In this regard, states/UTS are advised to please note that the FLWs categories and their definition has been very clearly communicated by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and no change in the categories of FLWS and their definition has been made by the Government of India. “Thus, it is advised that states/UTs should adhere to these categories as defined by MoHFW based on the recommendations of the NEGVAC,” the letter from Bhushan to chief secretaries of states and union territories, dated May 15, said.
Bhushan said the COVID-19 vaccination drive has entered Phase-3 from May 1 this year in which all beneficiaries aged 18 years and above can be included for vaccination as per state’s decision. He said this phase of vaccination drive is being guided by liberalised pricing and accelerated national COVID-19 vaccination strategy which has been explained to the states and union territories during multiple meetings held in the last one fortnight. He said according to the new strategy, Health Care Workers (HCWS), FLWs and people above 45 years are being vaccinated using vaccine supplies made free of cost to states and union territories by the Government of India. He said people aged above 18 years are to be vaccinated using vaccines procured directly by states, union territories and private hospitals.
“However, states may like to make provisions for other categories of FLWs beyond the categories communicated by MoHFW as FLWs from the vaccines directly procured by state governments. “A suitable provision is also being made in Co-WIN for on-site registration and vaccination of such facilitated cohorts of beneficiaries that the states may identify to be benefitted exclusively out of the vaccine doses directly procured by the States,” he said. The railway unions have demanded that its staffers, who have been working through the coronavirus crisis, be treated as frontline workers and even Railway minister Piyush Goyal, sources said, had assured them of help. “If state police, central police organisations, armed forces, Home Guards, prison staff are frontline workers, why aren’t our stationmasters, guards, and running staff considered the same? It’s not fair,” an officer said.