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Maharashtra raises alarm: stocks running out, may have to pause Covid vaccination

Maharashtra estimates that its stock of 15.76 lakh doses of Covaxin and Covishield will be exhausted in three days.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
Updated: April 8, 2021 7:30:32 am
Mumbai COVID-19, Mumbai coronavirus, Mumbai COVID-19 cases, Maharashtra COVID-19 cases, Maharashtra news, indian expressA Covid-19 vaccination drive underway at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) Jumbo Hospital in Mumbai on April 7, 2021. (Express Photo: Pradip Das)

Even as the Centre flayed Maharashtra Wednesday over its claims of vaccine shortage, the state has raised alarm bells, with senior health officials saying they may be forced to halt vaccination for four to five days next week if the new stock does not come. Maharashtra estimates that its stock of 15.76 lakh doses of Covaxin and Covishield will be exhausted in three days.

The state has now asked for a minimum 40 lakh doses to meet the daily target of 4.5 lakh vaccinations, with plans to go up to at least 6 lakh doses per day. Health officials said they had made multiple requests to the Centre to increase vaccine supply in the last 10 days.

“We have been informed by the Centre that new stocks will come by April 15. In that case, we may have to halt vaccination for a few days,” said Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas.

Officials from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said they have supplied 1.06 crore doses to Maharashtra so far, with 7.43 lakh more in the pipeline, and recorded consumption of 90.53 lakh doses.

Maharashtra has been immunising between 3.5 lakh and 4 lakh people daily, and had vaccinated 85.6 lakh people till Tuesday night. On Tuesday, 3.88 lakh people were vaccinated. “We do not have enough vaccine doses. Health workers have to turn away recipients. We cannot afford to slow the pace. We are ready to increase daily immunisations to 5 lakh, maybe scale up to 6 lakh,” Health Minister Rajesh Tope said, adding he had requested for more doses, especially of Covaxin. “There is more demand for Covaxin.”

The worst-hit state, Maharashtra is seeing nearly 60,000 cases of Covid a day, with 5 lakh active cases.

Officials from Tope’s office said he would issue a statement in response to the Union Health Minister on Thursday, questioning the Centre’s criticism and pointing out that Maharashtra has done the maximum vaccinations though Uttar Pradesh, for example, has a larger population. “Only select states are pulled up in video conferences,” an official said.

A senior Maharashtra official said there is overall shortage in vaccine supply and the Centre had not estimated the daily consumption to rise so fast. Till March 21, India had sent 6 crore vaccine doses to 76 countries, and used 4.5 crore domestically. However, in the 16 days since, the country’s immunisation count has touched 8.7 crore.

The Indian Express checked stock across districts in the state. While Aurangabad, Nandurbar, Gadchiroli and rural regions had excess stock due to poor turnout, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Mumbai, Nashik, Satara have stock that will last a day or two. On Tuesday, Maharashtra received 3 lakh Covaxin doses. “Before that we received about 10 lakh doses two weeks ago. Currently we are struggling to divert stock from one district to another to keep centres running,” said state immunisation officer Dr D N Patil.

Tope also stressed that the state had been following all the ICMR guidelines, and strengthened ‘testing, tracing and treatment’, in a bid to check the surge — one of the issues raised by the Centre. Noting that the state was handling both surge in cases and vaccinations simultaneously, a senior Health Ministry official said, “Maharashtra has increased overall testing, 70% of it is RT-PCR… For the Centre to say we have not done enough is not fair.”

Abhijeet Bangar, Navi Mumbai Municipal Commissioner, said they would exhaust vaccine supplies by Wednesday evening. “We have informed the government that we can’t run our centres tomorrow (Thursday) if there is no new supply. We have 9,000 doses left. Daily consumption is 8,500-10,000 for the city,” Bangar told The Indian Express.

He said that while districts had increased the pace of vaccination, the proportional increase in supply had not happened.

Panvel Municipal corporation announced it will shut vaccination from Thursday due to shortage.

On Tuesday, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation diverted 30,000 doses to rural centres. “There is a crunch in rural areas, in the city we are able to manage by diverting stocks from one centre to another,” said Municipal Commissioner Radhakrishnan B. However, in Nagpur city too, the stock will only last five-six days, and that too if more is not diverted to rural parts. Frequent transportation also carries the risk of the vaccine getting damaged in case there are temperature fluctuations.

Satara Collector Shekhar Singh said they had to turn away a few recipients on Wednesday. “In the last few days, our daily immunisation has risen from 6,000 to 27,000 but equivalent stock hasn’t come. We only have 25,000 doses left, which we will exhaust by the evening. I have been asking the state government every day but even they don’t have buffer stock,” said Singh.

Health officials at Sangli said they ran out of stock at 3 pm Wednesday. Solapur Municipal Commissioner Astik Kumar Pandey too said they will soon need more vaccines. Kolhapur is facing a similar situation.

Pune district can pull along for the next one or two days, with health officials worried that the shortage comes at a time when they had just succeeded in mobilising the hesitant population to get the vaccine shots.

Dr Sanjay Deshmukh, Deputy Director, Pune circle, that includes Pune, Satara and Solapur districts, said some districts may have to temporarily pause vaccinations.

In Mumbai, vaccination centres complained they had stock to last two days. At Hiranandani hospital, an official said, “We will have to turn people away from Friday.”

— with Anuradha Mascarenhas, Pune

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