Vaccinations Halted Across Several States as India Stares at a Nation-Wide Vaccine Shortage

With Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, the two Indian companies providing vaccines to the government, not able to meet the growing demand, due to vaccine shortage as many as 12 states have decided to float global tenders to buy vaccines.

According to updates on the MEA website as of 15th of May 2021, the total vaccine export from India to the world has been a whopping 663.698 Lakh. These vaccines were shipped off to 95 different countries with the last shipment having left India exactly a month ago on16th of April 2021. Notably a week later from this date, on 23rd of April 2021, India broke the grim record of most COVID cases recorded in a single day across the world. India’s vaccine policy has been debated since the second wave has brought the healthcare sector of the country down on its knees with very little to no support from the bureaucracy and the government.

In an interesting turn of events in the largest inoculation drive in the world that is going on in India, the state of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh on Thursday announced that they were suspending vaccinations of people in the 18-44 age group, due to the non-availability of Covid-19 vaccines, following the example of Karnataka and Maharashtra. With Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, the two Indian companies providing vaccines to the government, not able to meet the growing demand for vaccines, as many as 12 states have decided to float global tenders to buy vaccines.

Vaccine Shortage in Rajasthan

“We are suspending vaccination till we get vaccines from Serum Institute,” said a Rajasthan government official, adding that the state expects to resume vaccination from Saturday if the vaccines arrive.

The state has around 200,000 vaccines meant for those over 45 years of age. The official added that these would likely be used up on Thursday and that the state would wait for more vaccines from the Centre. Rajasthan has so far vaccinated 14.6 million people (3.3 million have received both shots and 11.6 million one shot). This includes 5,63,122 people in the 18-44 years age group who have received one dose of the vaccine.

The state has ordered 30.75 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India, of which 650,000 have been delivered. The state has also ordered around 300,000 vaccines of Covaxin from Bharat Botech. Rajasthan has decided to float a global tender to procure 10 million vaccines.

The Union government provides states with free vaccines for those over the age of 45 and frontline workers. States have to make their own arrangements for vaccines for the 18-45 years age group, though the Centre works with vaccine manufacturers to decide how many vaccines each state is eligible for.

Covid-19 Vaccine Shortage & Current Status in Chhattisgarh

A Chhattisgarh government official said vaccination in the 18-44 age group for Above Poverty Line (APL) people were stopped in Raipur due to the unavailability of vaccines. “Vaccination is going on for other categories such as poor and frontline workers across the state,” said state immunisation officer, Dr Amar Singh Thakur. Health minister TS Singhdeo expressed confidence in getting vaccines soon to continue vaccination drive. West Bengal which started vaccination for the 18 – 44 segment on Tuesday in select districts may have to suspend the inoculation if vaccines don’t arrive in the next two days, officials said.

Vaccine shortage in Bihar, Tripura & Goa

Some states such as Goa, Himachal and Bihar are yet to start vaccination drive for 18-44 age group. Himachal Pradesh plans to start vaccinating people in this segment from May 17 with chief minister Jai Ram Thakur saying that the state has received first consignment of 1.07 lakh doses from the Serum Institute of India (SII) on Wednesday. Tripura on Thursday started vaccinations for people in the 18-44 age group.

Vaccine Shortage in Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

Both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have not started vaccinating people in this segment — something that was supposed to begin from May 1. While Andhra Pradesh has stopped administering first doses to people over the age of 45 — it wants to prioritise second doses — Telangana has been giving both first and second doses to those above the age of 45 years. Both the governments have clarified that they will start vaccinations for the 18-44 years age group only after the completion of the second dose of vaccination for those over the age of 45 years.

Madhya Pradesh Vaccine Status

Madhya Pradesh immunization officer Santosh Shukla said, “Madhya Pradesh has about 3 lakh vaccines for the 18-44 years age group and within three days, we will receive 9 lakhs more. We started the vaccination of 18 + four days late because we wanted to have enough stock.”

Covid-19 Vaccine Status in Uttar Pradesh

The Uttar Pradesh government, which has opened vaccinations for the 18-44 age group in 18 of the state’s 75 districts, said it would start vaccinations in more districts once tit receives five lakh vaccine doses by Friday. “We have enough vaccine doses to run the drive,” said state Health and Family Welfare minister, Jai Pratap Singh.

Punjab, Odisha and Assam Status

Punjab, which is left with only 60,000 jabs for the 18-44 age group, is not contemplating a suspension of the drive, said Health Minister Balbir Sidhu. The state has ordered 3 million doses of Covishield from Serum Institute of India (SII) and is expecting 2.5 lakh doses between May 15 and 25. Odisha and Assam do not plan to suspend vaccination for the 18-44 age group, as both states have enough stocks.

Maharashtra is suffering with Vaccine Shortage

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided to temporarily suspend the vaccination drive for the 18-44 years category and divert the vaccines that it purchased for that age group to provide second doses for those above 45, state health minister Rajesh Tope said.

The Digpu News Bottomline

One can say that while in middle of the second wave of the pandemic, the Central Government of India led by the BJP has not put a lot of foots in the right place. Be it the vaccine export policy, the oxygen management across the country or the ventilator support management. However, in the most recent chain of events regarding vaccinations and inoculations across the country, the government increased the minimum duration between two doses of the Covishield from 4 weeks to 12 weeks. The 200% increase was attributed to an American study but nothing was cleared.

With more and more states suspending inoculation drives for the 18-44 age group. One wonders whether this is a deliberate attempt from the Central Government to hide the national vaccine shortage. Just thinking out loud.

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