India’s ambitious vaccine for all programme, now seems to be on the slowest track, across the country. The complete lack of coordination, and in some cases cooperation between the Centre and the states over the Covid-19 vaccine roll out seems to be creating more confusion than solutions. For example, many in the National Capital Region (NCR) received messages that their scheduled vaccination slots had been canceled. Some who tried to access vaccination for 18+ got slots and centres which were across town, because the ones closer home said they were full. However those who did manage to get the first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine were the lucky ones.
On Wednesday, when India reported a record Covid-19 death toll of around 4,205, state governments such as those from Delhi and Maharashtra officially announced an acute vaccine shortage. Delhi has now shut down over 100 vaccination centres that “ran out” of stock. According to Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia almost 125 centres were being shut after Bharat Biotech told the state government it could not provide additional Covaxin supplies. “The Covaxin manufacturer has in a letter said it cannot provide us vaccines due to unavailability, under instruction of government officials. It means the Centre is controlling vaccine supply,” said Sisodia. He had, just a day before this, suggested that “a global tender to import Covid vaccines” be initiated.
However by May 12, it was official that “‘no centre in Delhi will be able to administer Covaxin from tomorrow to the 18-44 age group due to unavailability of vaccines”. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and MLA from Kalkaji constituency Atishi confirmed this saying, “Covaxin’s stock absolutely finished, nearly 100 centres administering Covaxin have been forced to temporarily shut down,” adding that the last batch that had arrived a day before had “had 2,67,690 doses of Covishield for the 18-44 age group” and the state has only 9 days’ stock left for this group. She said that “Bharat Biotech refused to deliver any new doses of Covaxin to Delhi.”
The Delhi government hopes that the Union government steps in soon to resolve the crisis as even for healthcare/frontline workers and those above 45 years, the state only has 4 days’ stock of Covaxin left, and 3 days’ stock of Covishield left. “We are sincerely hoping that the centre will make sufficient doses available both for Covaxin and Covishield in the next few days. Delhi has probably faced the most Covid induced hardships ever since the start of the pandemic. Hence, I reiterate that we are hoping that the central government supplies enough vaccines for the people of Delhi at the earliest,” she added.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope also announced on Wednesday that the vaccinations for the 18-44 age group were being suspended for now due to the “shortage of vaccines.” Tope told media-persons that all the doses purchased by the state government for that age group will “now be diverted for the 45+ category”. The minister also revealed that the Serum Institute of India (SII) has informed the Maharashtra government that it would be able to provide 1.5 crore Covishield vaccines to the state only May 20 onwards. “There is no sufficient supply of vaccine vials by the Centre for inoculation of above-45 age group people. Hence, the state cabinet decided to divert the stock, purchased for the 18-44 age group, for the above-45 age group. Therefore, we are suspending the inoculation of the 18-44 age group for some period,” Tope said.
Until any further orders vaccination for 18-44 year olds is suspended. We regret the inconvenience caused to our young Mumbaikars. Slots for 45+s shall open after 9 PM tonight for booking to get #vaccinated tomorrow. No walk-ins allowed #MyBMCVaccinationUpdate
— माझी Mumbai, आपली BMC (@mybmc) May 12, 2021
The Indian Express has reported that vaccine inequality has deepened further and only seven states had so far accounted for over 85% of the vaccines given to those in the 18-44 age group. According to the report, these states are: Maharashtra (6.25 lakh), Rajasthan (5.49 lakh), Delhi (4.71 lakh), Gujarat (3.86 lakh), Haryana (3.55 lakh), Bihar (3.02 lakh), and Uttar Pradesh (2.65 lakh). It added that states “with more than 1 lakh active cases — administered a dismal 5.86% of the total doses to their 18-44 population.” A glaring example was that of Karnataka, with the country’s highest active caseload (5.87 lakh), but has administered just 74,015 doses; and also Kerala, with the third-highest active caseload (4.24 lakh), administered merely 771 doses, reported IE.
Meanwhile, Union Health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said, he has “told the Health Ministers of the states that the production of vaccine in the country is expected to be around 8 crores in May and around 9 crores in June,” adding that “the Central Government is extending all possible support to the companies.”
मैंने राज्यों के स्वास्थ्य मंत्रियों को बताया कि देश में वैक्सीन का उत्पादन मई के महीने में करीब 8 करोड़ होने की संभावना है और जून में यह लगभग 9 करोड़ होगा। इसके उत्पादन को और गति देने के लिए केंद्र सरकार कंपनियों को हर संभव सहयोग दे रही है। @PMOIndia pic.twitter.com/tQNzzqwZ7Z
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) May 12, 2021
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