Maharashtra is likely to soon review whether Covid-19 vaccination for the 18-44 age group can be restarted in government centres.
Starting May 1, the state had begun vaccinating the 18-44 age group at government centres but subsequently discontinued the service, asking beneficiaries to get jabbed at private centres by paying for the doses.
This month, Maharashtra has received 24.78 lakh doses from the Centre. As of Monday, it had a stock of 15 lakh doses. It is slated to receive another 17 lakh doses on Wednesday. With the available stock, officials said there may be enough to start immunising the 18-44 age group in government centres.
Since May 1, 24.98 lakh people in the 18-44 age group have received their first dose in Maharashtra, 1.92 lakh have got the second dose. Except for the few thousand doses that government centres administered in early May, most have paid for their jabs in the private sector.
Currently, Maharashtra is immunising two to three lakh people a day, with the private sector accounting for 40-50 per cent of daily immunisation. The pace seems to have stagnated at least in government centres.
Officials said one reason behind the shift in policy is that government centres are witnessing a dip in demand for jabs by people in the 45-plus age group. A more worrying trend is that at least 8.46 lakh healthcare and frontline workers as well as people aged over 45 years have still not turned up for their second doses. While 5.37 lakh second doses are pending for Covaxin, the figure for Covishield is 3.09 lakh. Of the 3.09 lakh people yet to take their second Covishield dose, 1.45 lakh are healthcare workers, 81,000 are frontline workers and 82,000 are in the 45-plus age group.
The reasons for a no-show for the second jab could be that some of those due are infected or have taken their second dose under a different CoWin registration number. Officials are also checking if any error in the app is causing the second dose, even if administered, to not reflect in their servers. Or there could be actual dropouts. Districts have been asked to inquire who these people are and why they have not taken the second dose.
“While Covaxin is in short supply and pending second dose is understandable, we don’t understand why over three lakh people have not taken the second Covishield jab despite completion of 84 days,” a health official said.
“We have begun inquiring with healthcare workers who still haven’t turned up for their second dose. Around 6 per cent are yet to take the jab in the district. Most took their first dose between January to March,” said Dr Shitalkumar Jadhav, District Health Officer (DHO) of Solapur.
He added they are noticing a reluctance in people to take the second dose as Covid-19 cases have dipped. “We saw enthusiasm for vaccination when the second wave came. Even now, people are eager to get their first dose but many believe one dose is good enough,” said Jadhav. In Mumbai, over 50,000 people are due for the second dose. The BMC has begun reaching out to them.
In Sangli, DHO Dr Vivek Patil said they have managed to cover over 90 per cent of frontline workers and 85 per cent of healthcare workers with the second dose.
But in Amravati, Civil Surgeon Dr Shyamsunder Nikam said that in the last few weeks, fewer people are turning up at government centres. “Once we start getting a steady supply of vaccines, we will begin awareness drives,” he said.