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Monday, April 19, 2021

Pune: State, Centre insist no shortage of any Covid-19 vaccine

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan ruled out any shortage of vaccine doses in Maharashtra. He said it was up to Maharashtra to decide how to use its vaccine doses in an optimal manner.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: March 16, 2021 2:04:12 pm
A nurse displays a Covaxin vial at a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Medical college, Kolkata. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

While the local civic administration has said it had run out of existing stocks of Covishield vaccine, prompting it to direct hospitals to use only Covaxin on those receiving their first doses, state government and the Centre insisted there was no shortage of any vaccine anywhere.

“We are receiving both the vaccines, and there is no shortage,” said Dr N Ramaswami, state health commissioner and mission director for National Health Mission in Maharashtra.

He said since Covaxin, the Covid19 vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, was no longer being administered in clinical trial mode, the number of centres administering this vaccine was being increased throughout the state.

“We have put out instructions to ensure that Covaxin was being made available at more centres. The earlier protocol of taking the consent of the recipient for Covaxin is being done away with,” he said. Dr Ramaswami said the state was aiming to ramp up its vaccination capacity, and both Covishield and Covaxin would be used for this. “This week we hope to reach three lakh vaccinations a day, and are empaneling more hospitals to achieve this target,” he said. The state has so far vaccinated 29 lakh people, reaching up to 2.5 lakh vaccinations a day.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan also ruled out any shortage of vaccine doses in Maharashtra. He said it was up to Maharashtra to decide how to use its vaccine doses in an optimal manner. Pune civic administration had, on Sunday, directed the hospitals in the city to use only Covaxin on people coming in for their first shot, while keeping Covishield, the vaccine produced by Serum Institute of India, for those who have already received the first dose of the same vaccine. The administration said it had to do this because its existing stock of Covishield had been exhausted and it wasn’t sure about the time it would take to receive the next tranche of the vaccine.

Dr Archana Patil, state director of health, said there was no effort to prioritise any particular vaccine over the other. “Whichever stock is available is being supplied. There is no question of pushing one particular vaccine. Till last week, out of our entire stock, 65 per cent was Covishield and the remaining Covaxin,” she said.

But only six centres in Maharashtra, and just one in Pune, were administering Covaxin. The rest were all giving Covishield. That is likely to change now, following the decision to no longer administer Covaxin in clinical trial mode after its preliminary phase-III trial data showed over 80 per cent efficacy.

State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said Covaxin could now be pushed ahead, just like Covishield, to increase vaccinations. “There is nothing wrong in it (pushing the Covaxin),” he said. People in the know at Serum Institute of India said there was no shortage of Covishield at their end, but they were not responsible for distributing the vaccine. “We are not falling short. But all our stocks are sent to the central government which does the allocation. The Centre wants Serum Institute to manufacture 50 million doses of Covishield per month,” a source said.

Meanwhile, Ayush Prasad, Zilla Parishad CEO, said over 200 vaccination centres in rural Pune did not have vaccine stocks till Monday morning. “The problem was with the inventory management system. Private and government hospitals had not entered data properly. The system indicated there were enough doses with these centres, when that was not the case,” he said.

Intervention from District Collector Rajesh Deshmukh and Prasad ensured that 50,000 doses each of Covaxin and Covishield were delivered to the centres by Monday evening.

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