Wednesday onwards, Maharashtra will start the process of vaccinating patients with mental illnesses, irrespective of whether they have identification proof, officials said on Monday. Last week, the state began vaccinating patients who have identification proofs in Thane and Ratnagiri mental hospitals.
“Immunization drive for those without identification proof will start from Wednesday,” said Dr Sadhana Tayade, Director, Directorate of Health Services.
The drive will gradually cover other groups such as residents of old age homes and rehabilitation centers as well as the destitute, nomads, beggars and other people who don’t necessarily have an identification proof.
Until now, only 41 patients out of the 2,453 admitted in the four mental hospitals in the state have been vaccinated. The beneficiaries include 30 men and 11 women. The mental hospitals, situated in Thane, Ratnagiri, Pune and Nagpur, house 1,386 male and 1,067 female patients.
Officials said shortage of vaccine has slowed the vaccination process to some extent.
Till date 7,253 patients have been tested for Covid-19 in these hospitals and 763 have tested positive. These include both OPD patients as well as those who were admitted in the facilities. Of them, 78 required hospitalization for treatment. Four patients have succumbed to the infection, and 141 cases are still active, according to the data. Hospital officials said ensuring physical distancing and mask adherence is difficult in case of patients with mental illnesses.
Dr Duryodhan Chauhan, incharge of Maharashtra mental health cell, said for those aged above 45 years, stock will come from the Centre, and for 18-44 years group, the state government will provide vaccines. Chauhan said the health department will coordinate with Women and Child Development (WCD) and Social Justice departments to draw a list of
District task forces have been authorized to identify such population groups and a key facilitator will be picked from each institution to register them and monitor the vaccination process.
Officials said the plan is to first vaccinate inmates under institutional care and then register the destitute.
Shyam Tagade, Secretary, Social Justice department, said the department has data of about 60 old age homes in Maharashtra ready.
“Coordination with the health department is yet to begin. We issued instructions to all old age homes to give priority to testing and treatment among the inmates,” Tagade said.
Beggars’ home and women shelter homes fall under the jurisdiction of the WCD department.
Advocate Gaurav Bansal, who filed a petition in Delhi High Court a few weeks back about the need to vaccinate the mentally ill and the destitute, said, “It is still possible to immunize those in institutional care, but what about the destitute? How will they be registered, given first shot, and be located for second shot if they wander on the roads? There is no clarity.”
In a recent notification, the Centre observed that mentally ill people along with beggars, prisoners, and old age home inmates remain the most vulnerable to Covid-19. As per norms, a beneficiary has to either self-register or be registered by a vaccinator through identification cards, which people with severe mental illnesses, the destitute and beggars don’t usually have. “In this context, there is a need to provide special consideration to the vulnerable population of the country...” the Centre said.