Amid the surging second wave of COVID-19 infections across the country, States are grappling with vaccine shortage, with several running vaccination centres below capacity and demanding that the Centre give them stocks to last at least seven days.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday had tweeted that 13.5 crore doses of vaccine were available of which 9.5 crore had been administered until Friday. The remaining 4 crore were either in the ‘pipeline’ or in stock.
With India administering 30-40 lakh doses vaccines everyday, this suggests existing stocks being available for 13-10 days, though there is considerable variation within States in the number of doses being made available.
The CoWin portal discloses real time information on the doses administered by States but doesn't clarify on their existing stocks.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's interaction with Chief Ministers on Thursday, several of them — cutting across political affiliations — had said they didn't have stocks beyond three-four days.
A presentation made to the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday has a slide that says States have 4-8 days of vaccine doses “at any given moment.” This allocation is done by the Centre based on “production, supply chain and inventory.” Fresh supplies are given every third or fourth day or seventh or eighth according to the presentation.
Six crore doses of Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield and one crore doses from Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin are available every month. However, SII CEO Adar Poonawala has said that of the 6.5 crore odd monthly supply some portion is farmed out for exports to meet contractual obligations — the exact break up being unclear.
The SII's original plan was to provide at least 10 crore doses to India per month from May. But this has faced a setback due to a fire in one of its facilities in January this year. The pharma major is also facing legal suits for not making good on its international contract obligations.
The PMO presentation also reveals that other vaccine candidates — from Johnson and Johnson, Zydus Cadilla, Novavax and a nasal spray-based vaccine from Bharat Biotech — would “at the earliest” be available after July. The Russian Sputnik V, to be supplied by Dr Reddy's, is likely to be available from May or June.
Reports of vaccine shortage have come in from across the country.
Pointing out that present stock in the State would run out in two days, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has sought an immediate supply of 30 lakh COVID-19 vaccines to the State. He said the fresh supply would help maintain the vaccination momentum built up earlier by the State and ensure inoculation of all eligible beneficiaries at the earliest.
Barely a week after Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy launched the mass vaccination drive in several ward/village secretariats, the Andhra Pradesh is staring at a severe shortage of vaccines with only 1.38 lakh Covaxin doses and 3.06 lakh Covishield doses as on April 6. AP Minister for Health and Family Planning Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas told reporters that about 2 lakh doses of vaccines would arrive by Saturday. On average, the State has been administering 1 lakh doses per day, with inoculations going down to 70,000 on some days.
For past three days, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Cabinet ministers have been sending SOS to the Centre to replenish vaccines as the State was running out of the stocks. In a note to the Centre on Friday, Odisha Chief Secretary said the State, while prepared to inoculate over 3 lakh every day, had to shut down two-thirds of its vaccination centres because of “lack of supply” and that several districts were in ‘stock-out’ situation and unable to continue to the vaccination programme. Odisha has been vaccinating nearly 1.5 lakh to 2.5 lakh persons everyday since March 31, but has registered a sharp dip since April 6, when numbers have plummeted to as low as 83,000.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the State would need at least 40 lakh doses per week and as of Thursday afternoon, had only around 12 lakh doses left. For most of this week, the State has averaged between 3.5 -4 lakh vaccinations every day.
The issue of vaccine supplies has turned sharply political with Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, lambasting Maharashtra on Wednesday and to a lesser degree, Punjab and Delhi, of mismanaging the vaccine rollout exercise. Information and Broadcasting minister, Prakash Javadekar also accused Maharashtra of vaccine wastage. The Opposition ruled states have on the other hand accused the Centre of allotting more vaccines to BJP-led states.
In a letter to the Prime Minister on Friday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked for an immediate moratorium on exports as, he claimed, “the country is facing vaccine starvation” and asked the government to open up vaccination to everyone who needs it. He said the government should double the ₹35,000 crore allocation for the vaccination programme.