Amid lack of vaccine supplies and uncertainty over availability in the next few weeks, several States have postponed the scheduled May 1 roll out of Phase III of COVID-19 immunisation f or those between 18-45 years . Maharashtra said the rollout would begin as scheduled but depend on supplies. The process was also hit by the Centre’s directive that private hospitals are required to return unused vaccines meant for those over the age of 45.
Several States including Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Punjab, have written to the Centre seeking urgent replenishing of vaccine supplies.
Delhi Chief Minster Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said the capital will not join the wider vaccination drive as the required doses have not been received yet. He requested people in the newly added age group not to queue up at vaccination centres on May 1 as this might lead to violation of social distancing and create a law-and-order situation.
“In the next one-two days, around three lakh Covishield vaccines will be received and the drive for vaccinating people in the age group 18-44 will commence,” Mr. Kejriwal said. He added that the Delhi government has placed an order for 67 lakh doses each of Covishield and Covaxin from manufacturers and that once received, the entire population of Delhi gets will be able to get vaccinated within three months.
T.N. awaits supplies
The Tamil Nadu government also has deferred the rollout, as it has not yet received the required vaccines from the Central government. Health secretary J. Radhakrishnan told mediapersons in Chennai that the Chief Minister had written to the Centre seeking 1.5 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin.
“But till date the Centre has not given information about the number of doses the State will receive,” he said.
“We have sufficient vaccines for those over 45. The same problem has been faced by other States as well,” he explained. The State was in touch with Serum Institute of India, Pune, and Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad, he said.
Apollo Hospitals meanwhile said it would launch the third drive of vaccination on Saturday, having procured vaccines directly from the manufacturers as per the Central government’s directive
It would administer the same to eligible individuals who have registered on the CoWIN app and made an appointment for the vaccine at its hospitals, the hospital said. The vaccines would be priced as per the Central government guidelines, Shobana Kamineni, executive vice chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Group said.
The vaccines would be priced as per the Central government guidelines, Shobana Kamineni, executive vice chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Group said.
Based on supplies
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the innoculation will start from Saturday “as per the availability” of vaccine doses. Mr Thackeray said the State has the capacity to vaccinate each and every person but the problem is of vaccine supply.
“We will be receiving 18 lakh doses in May. I again urge the Central government to increase the supply,” he added. The State has received three lakh doses from the Centre on Friday.
Deferred in Punjab
In Punjab and the Union Territory of Chandigarh the rollout has been put on hold. The UT administration said it had not received vaccines — an issue echoed by the Punjab government.
“We have not received the vaccines yet. We have placed the order of one lakh vaccines and would be able to start vaccination as soon as we get the vaccines. Registration process for vaccination, however, is underway but slots would be given only after receiving the vaccines,” Arun Gupta, Principal Secretary (Health) for Chandigarh told The Hindu. “It is unlikely that 18 plus vaccination will start tomorrow (May 1),” he added.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced deferring of the roll out, adding that vaccination at private health facilities will remain suspended from Saturday.
“As the balance of unutilised vaccines had to be returned to the Government of India by all private health facilities by Friday evening, these facilities would have no vaccines to administer from tomorrow for 45 plus population, while they could not vaccinate 18-45 age group as they had no supplies for the same,” said the Chief Minister.
The Chief Minister said his government was pursuing the matter of vaccine shortage with the Centre, as the situation was critical. The State had received 2 lakh doses but that was not sufficient even to meet the two days requirement of the 45 plus age group, said Captain Singh, while reviewing the Covid vaccine situation at a virtual meeting.
The State government was trying to secure supply for 45 plus population from the Centre on priority and was also trying to strategise phase III vaccination.
An order for procurement of 30 lakh doses of Covishield for the age group of 18-45 years was placed with Serum Institute of India on April 26, but the response received was that availability of vaccine will be known only in 4 weeks’ time. Further, SII had asked the state government to indicate demand for the next 3-4 months, with advance payments to be made. They had informed the government that supplies would be delivered in a phased manner, every month.
Uncertainty in Odisha
The vaccination drive in Odisha faces uncertainty with State government not able to secure concrete commitment for required amount of vaccine.
In the phase 3, 1.93 crore people (43% of the population) in the age group of 18-44, are eligible for getting vaccinated. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had already announced free vaccination for this group of population.
“We had not lost anytime to contact two companies for supply of vaccine. In Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation area, five lakh people in the age group have been estimated for which order of 10.34 lakh doses has been placed. The SII has also been contacted for 377 lakh doses of vaccine. We are in regular touch with these two companies,” said P. K. Mohapatra, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) here on Friday.
“Once we receive vaccine doses, we will start vaccination drive. The two companies have given one assurance they would supply vaccine. There is no certainty when vaccine would be airlifted from Pune and Hyderabad,” said Mr. Mohapatra.
“The vaccination drive would begin and people would be duly informed only when vaccine stocks are physically received by the government,” he said.
The government had shared its vaccination plan with Serum Institute seeking supply of 40 lakh doses of Covishield for the month of May and 80 lakh doses per month for the month of June, July and August. Similarly, it wanted 5 lakh Covaxin doses from Bharat Biotech International by May 31 and additional 5.34 lakh doses by June 15.
The ACS (health) informed that Health Department had released ₹700 crore to Odisha State Medical Corporation (OSMC) for procurement of vaccine.
“Our first priority is inoculation of person requiring second jab. People should not create unnecessary scene demanding first dose. We have to make way for people who are due for second dose, otherwise the first dose would go waste,” he appealed.
“I have talked to senior functionaries in Union Health Ministry and am assured that we would be supplied vaccine on priority basis,” said Mr. Mohapatra. The vaccination will not be taken up on May 1 and 2 as Odisha has announced weekend shutdown.
Odisha Health Minister Naba Kisore Das on Friday wrote a letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, saying, “Between April 20 and 29, the State has received 2.9 lakh doses of Covishield in three allocations, which is very low in quantity for the State to conduct vaccination sessions smoothly. Due to such short supply, the vaccination sessions could not be conducted at more than 1100 sites in past few days and our daily achievement has drastically declined from 2.71 lakh on April 3 to 0.27 lakh people on April 29.” He urged the Mr. Vardhan to ensure supply of 25 lakh doses of Covishield in a single lot.
Non-starter in Kerala
Dwindling vaccine stocks have made it extremely difficult for Kerala to organise even regular vaccination sessions for the priority groups, making the wider immunisation exercise a non-starter.
The State has just about 1.3 lakh vaccine doses left in stock and hence vaccination sessions are being conducted in a limited way in the State since the past two weeks.
The State Government has asked vaccination centres to prioritise appointments for those who are due for the second dose
Hence , even though registration has been opened up for the 18-45 age group, they will not get appointment slots
“The Chief Minister has made it clear that vaccination can be offered to the 18-45 age group only as per the availability of the vaccine. The Centre's supplies continue to be limited and the State’s attempts to buy vaccines directly are obviously not going to materialise immediately. The 18-45 age group will have to wait for a while to receive the vaccine,” a senior Health official said.
Prioritising elderly in A.P.
The Andhra Pradesh government announced that it plans to use the allocated vaccine doses to first vaccinate those over 45.
The Centre informed the State that 13.34 lakh doses including 9.91 lakh of Covishield and 3.43 lakh of Covaxin will be likely available with the manufacturers for purchase by the State during May.
Principal Secretary (Health, Medical and Family Welfare) Anil Kumar Singhal said, “There are 2.04 crore people between 18 and 45 and over four crore doses are required for them. But the 13 lakh doses allocated by the Centre under the “Other than GoI” channel will only be available for a few. CM wants to first vaccinate 45+ category with the doses available for purchase in May.”
CM Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy has recently announced that vaccination for 18-45 age group will likely be available in August or September.
Turned away in Karnataka
Karnataka's Health Minister K. Sudhakar on Friday asked those in 18-44 age group, who have registered for vaccination, not to turn up at hospitals on Saturday, anticipating inoculation. Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa had said on Thursday that vaccination will happen in “in stages”.
Karnataka government has placed orders for two crore doses, and on Friday, announced that they would be placing order for one more crore doses of vaccine. However, there is no confirmation as to when State will receive delivery.
“State will seek the Centre’s intervention in getting the stocks on priority for Karnataka, which is reporting a massive surge in cases,” said Mr. Sudhakar. On Friday Karnataka added 48,296 new cases, taking the total number of active cases to 3,82,690.
Meanwhile, private hospitals have no clarity on the modalities of procurement of vaccines.
No clarity in Telangana
In the absence of a clear announcement from the Telangana Health department, people have been left confused.
In all 1.75 crore people in the age group of 18-44 need to be vaccinated in the State needing 3.50 crore vaccine doses. The State has received only 47.27 lakh doses from January 16.
On April 28, the State's Director of Public Health Dr G Srinivasa Rao said that though people in the age group can register in COWIN, they will not be able to book slots right away.
The Health department also issued an order asking officials to stop issuing vaccine stocks to private hospitals. The leftover vaccine doses if any, shall be taken back.
( With inputs from The Hindu’s bureaus )