Updated: April 30, 2021 8:12:15 pm
As the country gears up to inoculate those in the 18-45 age bracket, one state after the other have come out to express their doubts over the drive as they have been unable to procure the required amounts of vaccine needed to inoculate such a large number of people.
At a time when the country has been recording over 3 lakh Covid-19 cases and over 2,000 related deaths daily, state governments have been scrambling to order consignments to get people vaccinated.
According to the Centre’s new vaccination policy that kicks in from May 1, the supply will be divided into two baskets: 50 per cent for the Centre, and 50 per cent for the open market. Through the second, state governments, private hospitals, and industries that have facilities to administer the vaccine, will be able to procure doses directly from manufacturers.
However, most states have failed to do so, thereby casting doubts on whether the drive will at all start from May 1 or not.
Here’s a list of states that have either expressed doubts or postponed the inoculation drive:
West Bengal government on Friday announced that the vaccination of people between 18 and 44 years of age will not begin on May 1 due to paucity of vaccine doses. “Vaccination drive for those between 18 to 44 years of age will begin as and when the state receives the vaccine doses,” said West Bengal government. The government however mentioned that the immunisation of those above 45 years will continue.
COVID-19 vaccination for people in 18-44 age group will not begin from May 1 in West Bengal due to paucity of doses: Official
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) April 30, 202
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday appealed to people to not line up outside vaccination centres on May 1 as the state hasn’t received fresh supplies yet.
“Vaccines have not been delivered to us yet. We are in regular touch with companies making the vaccine. We are hopeful that they will reach up by tomorrow or day after. This is what they have told us. 3 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine will be delivered first. Please do not line up outside vaccination centres tomorrow. It can result in a law and order situation. It could also lead to a situation where there is no social distancing. Please do not do this,” the CM said.
Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain, too, said the state did not have enough vaccines. “We have requested for procurement of vaccines from the respective companies. Despite all preparations being made, availability of vaccines is inevitable for the inoculation to begin. As soon as these things are made clear and we receive the vaccines, we will let you know in a couple of days or so. We haven’t received the schedule from companies yet, which includes how many vials will reach on which dates,” Jain added.
During a review meeting on Covid-19 vaccination in Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy Thursday said it is likely that the inoculation drive for the 18-44 age group will start only in September, after vaccination of those above the age of 45 is complete.
“It is expected that vaccination for the age group 18-45 will start in September, once the vaccination is completed for people above 45 years. It will take four months to complete vaccination for people of age group 18-45 which means they will be vaccinated by end of January,” Reddy said, according to his office.
A senior official of Telangana health department said though the state government is in touch with vaccine manufacturers, there is no certainty on when the stocks would be available for the mass vaccination.
“There are no possibilities (of vaccination). We are in the process of getting a vaccine where there is no vaccine available in the country.We are in touch with the manufacturers also,” Telangana Public Health Director G Srinivasa Rao told PTI. “We are in search of the vaccine. We require around four crore doses,” he added.
According to reports, Bihar, too, is unlikely to start vaccination for people above 18 as the state has not been able to procure the required amounts of the vaccine.
A top health official said the Serum Institute of India (SII) had refused to supply one crore vials of the vaccine demanded by the Bihar government. He added that SII has informed the Central government that it will not be able to meet the demands of state governments and as such, the Centre has decided to make a population-based quota for vaccine supply for states.
“As a result, the vaccination would not start from May 1,” he informed.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has informed that his state would not start the vaccination for the 18-45 age group on May 1 but continue with vaccinating people over 45 years. In a video message posted late on Thursday night, he said, “On contacting the manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin, we learnt they are unable to give us doses for those above 18 years of age on May 1. So, the drive covering the young people won’t start on May 1.”
Chouhan added that Madhya Pradesh hoped to get the vaccines around May 3. “After that we will give the final shape to the drive for the young people,” he said.
Although Serum Institute has agreed to provide 3 lakh doses to Maharashtra, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the state would not begin mass vaccination with such a small stock.
“We should have at least 25-30 lakh to begin the next phase of vaccination for the 18-45 age group,” he said, while adding that the state government has asked manufacturers to give them a schedule for delivery and accordingly, the empowered committee will take a decision on when to start vaccination.
The commencement of the inoculation drive is also uncertain in Gujarat with Chief Minister Vijay Rupani saying his state does not have the requisite stock.
The state has ordered 2.5 crore doses — 2 crore of Covishield and 50 lakh of Covaxin. He expected at least a part of the order would be made available within the first 15 days of May. “I am hopeful we will receive vaccine doses and within 15 days we will start the vaccination process (of those aged above 18 years),” he said in a video message.
Things are not too different for Punjab as well which, too, hasn’t been assured of whether they’ll get enough supply to start the process.
“We are yet to contact Bharat Biotech for Covaxin order as earlier their prices were on higher side (Rs 600 per dose for state governments). But today they have reduced it to Rs 400 per dose for states so we will consider it now,” said state Health Secretary Husan Lal. He added that the state was yet to finalise its strategy for vaccination of 18 plus as there was no confirmation on vaccine supply.
Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has cast his doubts on whether his state will be able to start the next vaccination drive as the state does not have the requisite supply.
“Vaccine order has been given to Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute (of India, or SII). When they provide us the vaccines, only then can we begin the vaccination,” Sarma said, adding, “The Centre has given a guideline, based on which…it will be ascertained what amount of vaccine each state will get.”
Congress-ruled Rajasthan said it had been told by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures Covishield, that it would not be able to supply doses before May 15.
“We were told to speak to Serum Institute. Their feedback was that the orders that they have got from the central government…they will need time till May 15 to supply those orders. So they are not in a position to give the vaccine to us. So the question is, if the states want to procure vaccines directly, what is the process? This the central government should decide. The question before us is, we have 3.13 crore people in the 18-45 age group; how will we vaccinate them?” Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said.
Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo also said that the drive cannot start as vaccines are not made available by the manufacturers. “The Centre is saying that vaccinations have been opened to all…but vaccines are not available. Then the entire nation is being misguided. In a way, an attempt is being made to put the burden on the states and discredit them,” he added.
Jharkhand Health Minister Banna Gupta reiterated the views of his counterparts in opposition states, saying it will be very difficult to start the mass immunisation drive with the current supply.
“We want to vaccinate, but will we make vaccines in our homes?” he asked.
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