May 1, 2021 6:36:46 am
Maharashtra is making overnight preparations for a limited roll out of Phase III of the national vaccination campaign for the 18 to 44 age group after receiving three lakh doses from Serum Institute of India (SII) on Friday.
Earlier in the week, the state government, including Health Minister Rajesh Tope, had ruled out starting the drive on account of shortage of vaccines.
But with just hours to go, SII delivered 3 lakh doses to Maharashtra, and the government is now scrambling to send 10,000 to 20,000 doses to each of the 36 districts overnight so that vaccination can begin, at least symbolically, on the roll out date of May 1 announced by the Union government.
Under the new plan hammered out in a late night meeting between Union and state government officials, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in Mumbai will vaccinate the 18 to 44 age group in five of its centres on Saturday – Bandra Kurla Complex vaccination centre, Rajawadi hospital, Nair hospital, R N Cooper hospital and Seven Hills hospital.
Earlier in the week, BMC had said that this age group would be vaccinated only in private hospitals, while those in the 45 and above age group could get a jab at its centres. It had also shut it centres for three days until Sunday due to vaccine shortage.
Now, just five BMC centres will open for the Phase III roll out. Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, “Vaccination for those aged over 45 years will remain shut until Sunday.”
The doses received from SII are enough only to keep four to five centres open in each district. Until late Friday, state officials were preparing the final list of centres that will function on Saturday.
While vaccines will be administered according to pre-booked slots, until Friday night, the slots had not opened on the CoWin app. “CoWin showed some technical glitches today and the software is not working well. The Union government is working on it. We expect the software to work slowly on the first few days as its scope gets expanded,” a senior health official said. Officials said that slots may start appearing by late Friday night or Saturday morning on the app.
Meanwhile, from Saturday, those above 45 years of age will continue to get vaccinated across Maharashtra – except in Mumbai – till the 1 lakh doses remaining from the stock provided by the Centre earlier this week finishes. Only people in this age group are allowed to walk in and get their jabs. It is still being decided how to separate the two age groups in districts outside Mumbai.
In the next few days, Maharashtra is expecting to get 18 lakh more doses – over 4 lakh from Bharat Biotech and a little less than 14 lakh from SII – for the 18 to 44 age group. “Manufacturers have told us that supply in May will be low. From June, we can expect smooth supply,” said a senior state official. Meanwhile, the state has appealed to the Centre to send more stock for those above 45 years.
Till Thursday, 1.58 crore people had been vaccination in Maharashtra. At least 8 crore people are aged more than 18 years in the state. Of them, 5.7 crore fall in the 18 to 44 age bracket.
Kakani said BMC has given up plans of issuing a global tender to procure vaccines. “The government has assured us supply, so we plan to wait,” he said.
Private hospitals, meanwhile, have little clarity on when they can start vaccinating people. From May 1, the Centre will stop supplying doses to private hospitals. State Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas said as per Centre’s directions, the state will not buy and supply vaccines to private hospitals. Kakani also said BMC has decided not to supply jabs to private hospitals.
Dr Joy Chakraborty, COO of P D Hinduja hospital and chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Western region, said that private hospitals are collectively in discussion with the government to facilitate supply. “We are hoping to get some stock by May 3. But there is no clarity,” he added.
Officials said since the state is buying stock at lower rates, and rates of private hospitals are higher, a state cannot supply to a private hospital. Private hospitals plan to charge Covaxin per dose between Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,400 and Covishield between Rs 600 to Rs 1,000.
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