Guwahati, Jul 16: The Assam Assembly on Friday witnessed uproarious scenes during a discussion on the COVID- 19 vaccination drive in the state, which prompted Speaker Biswajit Daimary to adjourn the proceedings of the House.
During the discussion, Health and Family Welfare Minister Keshab Mahanta said the immunisation programme has been progressing smoothly but the opposition Congress refused to accept it, and the party MLAs alleged that the state has a shortage of doses and raised a slogan, 'We want vaccine'.
Daimary adjourned the proceedings till 3 pm as the BJP and the Congress legislators created a ruckus in the House.
At the current rate of vaccination, it would take 18 months to inoculate all the eligible people in the state, Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia claimed.
"The government said there would be 3,000 vaccination centres in the state from June but non-availability of vaccines at the camps left people disappointed," he said.
He also asked what steps the government is taking to hasten the inoculation process.
Replying to Saikia in the Question Hour, the health minister said that 30 per cent of eligible people have been vaccinated so far with seven per cent of beneficiaries having received both doses of vaccines.
Of the 3.5 crore estimated population in the state, about 2.37 crore are above 18 years of age and eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.
As the Congress MLAs tried to attack him on low percentage of people getting both vaccine doses, the minister said the government cannot be held responsible for it.
"People have to wait for a fixed period between the two doses. The government cannot accelerate the process at its will. A government can be blamed if people have to wait for their doses, but that is not the case here," he said.
When Congress MLA Bharat Narah claimed that people have been waiting for their second dose, the Speaker asked him to provide the number of such people to the minister.
Mahanta said the health department currently has a capacity to administer 5 lakh jabs in a single day, but the number of vaccinated people per day will depend on the inflow of doses, which is regulated by the Centre.
The state has received 85 lakh vaccines from the central government so far, he said.
When Congress legislators once again alleged that the rate of inoculation has been slow, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pijush Hazarika alleged that some political parties and organisations have been spreading misinformation about vaccination, creating doubts among people about the vaccines and leading to wastage of doses.
"You may not be satisfied with the reply, but you cannot question it like this. There are provisions for raising it later," the speaker said while moving ahead with other supplementary questions on the same issue.
Congress legislator Wajed Ali Choudhury also asked the minister whether vaccination drives are conducted in riverine hospitals.
Mahanta said such exercise can be arranged as has been for hilly areas through mobile vaccination teams.
Responding to a suggestion from ruling BJP MLA Rupak Sarma for special arrangements for specially-abled people and senior citizens with illness, Mahanta said, "A standard operating procedure for 'nearest to home' vaccination has already been issued for such category of people."