Patna: Top health officials in Jharkhand have come under fire for an official order asking all staff to get vaccinated, failing which their salary will be withheld till further orders. The move goes against the Union health ministry’s order that the vaccination for COVID-19 is “voluntary”. The order has since been withdrawn.
The order was issued by Chief Medical Officer-cum-Chief Executive Officer Parvati Kumari and District Immunization Officer Dr Abhay Bhushan Prasad in Koderma district. “Those government employees who have not yet got themselves vaccinated must get the shots earliest or their salary will be withheld till next order. Their salary will be released only after they submit proof of vaccination,” the officials said in their written order.
The move has been criticised with the health employees stating that getting vaccinated is optional as the Union health ministry itself has said earlier. Amid criticism from various quarters, the order has been withdrawn now. “This was an overzealous attempt to encourage people to get vaccinated. The order has been withdrawn with immediate effect,” Jharkhand health secretary Nitish Kulkarni told the media.
Reports said the order was issued by the health department since the health workers who were to be vaccinated in the first phase appeared reluctant to get the shots despite all efforts. Vaccination percentage in Jharkhand has not been very encouraging since it began on January 16.
According to a health department report, a total of 4,800 health workers were registered for vaccination on the opening day out of which only 3,200 turned up at the vaccination centres to get the jabs. On the next day, only 2,923 people turned up for vaccination out of total 4,900.
The health authorities had to cut a sorry figure on Monday when a sanitation worker who was listed on the top to get the shot didn’t turn up at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), one of the premier medical institutes at Ranchi. Eventually, the first vaccine shot was given to a hospital security guard Baiju Prasad.
In order to boost the confidence of the beneficiaries, top RIMS officials themselves came forward to get the vaccine shots. They included DR Kameshwar Prasad, RIMS director, Dr Vivek Kashyap, Medical superintendent and Dr Manoj Kumar, hospital’s microbiology department head.
“I am feeling well after getting the vaccine. It has no side effects. People should turn up as per their turn as only vaccination could drive coronavirus away,” said RIMS’s medical superintendent Dr Kashyap who himself had tested positive for COVID-19 in September last year.
“There is nothing to worry about. Vaccine is safe. The people should not pay heed to rumours and get the vaccines without any doubts in their minds,” said RIMS’s COVID Task Force member Dr Nishith Ekka who too got the vaccine shot on Monday.