Updated: April 29, 2021 7:41:55 am
The government on Wednesday extended the Covid-19 vaccination drive to a larger and younger population group by opening up registrations on the Co-WIN platform to those in the 18-44 age bracket. By the end of the day, the number of registrations touched almost 1.33 crore.
Given the scale of the ‘rationed’ vaccination — an average of 25-30 lakh doses a day — the first day registration of about 1.33 crore points to the daunting task the government faces in the coming weeks.
Huge pressure is expected since many young men and women will seek vaccination and want to get back to work at the earliest. “Moreover, the large number of daily deaths has done away with whatever little vaccine hesitancy existed amongst people,” said a doctor in AIIMS, who did not wish to be named.
India has 59.46 crore people in the 18-44 age group.
When the platform was opened on March 1 for those over 60 years, 25 lakh beneficiaries had registered on Day 1. Subsequently, when those over 45 were allowed to register on April 1, there were many who walked in for vaccination without necessarily first registering themselves on Co-WIN.
So far, there have been 14.80 crore registrations on Co-WIN, of which only 2.91 crore were made online; a bulk of them — 9.33 crore — walked in at centres and registered themselves before vaccination. As many as 2.55 crore registrations are of health care and frontline workers, who were prioritised for vaccination beginning January 16 and February 1, respectively.
Many states are already complaining of vaccine shortages with the third phase of vaccination for the larger population kicking in two days from now. Reports from cities in most states suggested that users in the 18-44 age group could not find appointment slots for vaccinations. Some did secure dates as early as the first two weeks of May in places like Ranchi. However, most hospitals in states including Gujarat, Chandigarh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Assam displayed unavailability of slots for those under 45 years of age.
A senior government official said, “We consciously decided it is better to allow registrations and thereafter, as and when states (and) private sector hospitals come on board, they will publish their vacancies on the platform and people will be able to (book an appointment).”
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said the state had placed orders of 25 lakh vaccines each with Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India. But Bharat Biotech replied it could supply vaccines only by July-end. Fearing that the vaccination strategy may fail, he said, “We are capable of vaccinating 3 lakh people a day. If the Centre doesn’t give us the vaccine, then how can we function? We are ready with our road map, we can start even if they inform us a couple of days before May 1.”
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the state would require around 40 lakh vaccines a week. As on date, the state’s vaccine stock is around 7 lakhs. While the state has the capacity to immunise 8 lakh people a day, it was only able to vaccinate only 1.5-2 lakh people on Tuesday, he said.
Just last Friday, Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami sought a supply of 20 lakh doses. In a letter to the Prime Minister, he said Tamil Nadu had received 67.85 lakh doses so far. While 3 lakh doses of Covishield is expected to come on Thursday, the state had a stock of 5.6 lakh doses of vaccines to last till Wednesday.
Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said, “There are 3.25 crore persons in the state who fall into this age group. We need around 7 crore doses.” He said the state had given an order of 3.75 crore vaccines to Serum Institute but was told the company would only be fulfilling the order placed by the Centre till May 15.
In Odisha, health department officials said the third phase set to commence from May 1 might get delayed due to a shortage of vaccines in the state. “The Centre has failed to supply adequate dosages of vaccines. At present, we have a stock of 1.23 lakh doses of Covishield and 3.56 lakh doses of Covaxin. Due to the unavailability, the phase III vaccination drive is likely to be delayed,” State Public Health Director Bijay Panigrahi said.
Allaying the fears of private hospitals in West Bengal, the statement government Wednesday said it will help them in meeting/ keeping their commitments to recipients of vaccines for the committed second dose. “It has come to the notice of the Government of West Bengal that about one lakh recipients of the first doses of vaccines are anxiously waiting for their second doses in different private sectors hospitals where they had received the first doses.” Officials said they were waiting for more clarity on the vaccination drive for the 18-45 age group from May 1. Hospitals said they were not getting a clear answer from vaccine manufacturers.
A senior official in Jharkhand said that the state has written to the Centre for 50 lakh vaccine doses. However, it had yet to receive any communication on it.
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