Tamil Nadu

Coronavirus | Several districts face vaccine shortage in Tamil Nadu

Recipients wait for their turn to get vaccinated at the Government Medical College Hospital, Omandurar Estate, Chennai on April 16, 2021.   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

A shortage of COVID-19 vaccines was reported from a number of districts across Tamil Nadu. While a few districts have already run out of Covaxin, the available stocks of Covishield will last only a few days in a number of districts.

Many districts were looking for fresh supplies to continue vaccination. The surge in cases has led to an increase in demand for the vaccines, resulting in quick depletion of the stocks, a section of health officials said. Owing to the depleting stocks, persons who lined up to get the jab were turned away in a number of districts. The State’s daily vaccination coverage was more than two lakh on Thursday and Friday.

Sources in the Health Department said that as of April 15, the State had 7.41 lakh doses of Covishield and 1.75 lakh doses of Covaxin. Chennai had a major share, with about 4.3 lakh doses, and authorities of the four major government medical college hospitals said they had adequate stocks. However, several districts were hit hard.

Health officials in Villupuram said the stocks at government and taluk hospitals had depleted, and no vaccination session was held on Friday. “On average, the seven government hospitals in the district have been administering 400-600 doses a day. But we were unable to continue the drive till Friday afternoon because most centres had depleted their stocks. We took down the phone numbers of senior citizens and those aged above 45, who had lined up for the shot and sent them back,” an official said.

“We told them that we would call them up in two days after fresh stocks arrived,” he added.

Officials in Cuddalore district said they were left with just enough stocks for a few days.

Government hospitals in Virudhunagar district ran out of Covaxin for the last three days, while the Covishield stock would last only for the next three days. “We are expecting fresh stocks by Sunday, and by Monday, there will not be any shortage,” said a senior official.

After being made to wait for a couple of hours, 100 persons were asked to come as and when the stocks were replenished at the government hospital at Rajapalayam.

In Tiruchi, the last few vials of Covaxin stock flew off the shelves on Friday. While Deputy Director of Health Services, S. Ram Ganesh said that 1,000 doses were distributed to vaccination centres, including Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital (MGMGH) and Manapparai Government Hospital on Thursday, for use from Friday, government hospital sources said it was used up in half-a day.

Of the 1,000 doses, 750 were distributed to private hospitals, 200 to MGMGH and 50 to the Manapparai government hospital. “These vials were shipped from Cuddalore after we had sent in a special request,” Dr. Ganesh said.

“We have been instructed to utilise the Covaxin doses only for those taking the second shot of the vaccine. For people approaching us for the first shot, we are only administering Covishield,” a senior staff at MGMGH said. At least 20 patients were turned away by the hospital on Friday after the Covaxin supply ran dry. Covishield, too, was in short supply in the district. Around 21,300 doses were available as on Friday morning, but at least 9,000 would be used up by Saturday, Dr. Ganesh said. The district would also run out of Covishield by Sunday if no fresh supply was provided.

As many as 100 persons above 45 years who had registered for vaccination and arrived at the Urban Primary Health Centre in the Erode Corporation were sent back as the vaccines were unavailable. They were given tokens and asked to come back on April 19. At the District Headquarters Hospital, only those who had received their first shot were vaccinated. Health officials said that since there was a sharp increase in the number of people getting vaccinated in the past one week, they had sought more doses.

In the Nilgiris, many persons above the age of 45 were turned away at the Government Headquarters Hospital. A 57-year-old woman from Adasolai near Udhagamandalam said she had hoped to be vaccinated on Friday, but said doctors said they had run out of vaccines by 11 a.m. and she was asked to come back on Monday.

P. Balusamy, Deputy Director of Health Services, admitted that there was a shortage of vaccines till Thursday, when only 800 doses were available. “However, the situation has improved, with the arrival of 5,000 doses on Friday, and they will be distributed to all four blocks — Coonoor, Kotagiri, Udhagamandalam and Gudalur,” he said.

There has been a lack of supply of vaccines to private hospitals too in the Nilgiris. Sanjay Vijayaraj of Vijaya Hospital at Udhagamandalam said the demand had increased recently. “There has been a lack of supply from the government over the last two days, but all private hospitals expect the situation to improve,” he said.

In Tirupathur, health officials said they had a day’s stock, while Tiruvannamalai had three days of supply.

Sources in the Health Department said Coimbatore district received 10,000 Covishield doses on Friday, which were distributed to the major vaccination centres. Acknowledging vaccine shortage at some centres, the sources said government-run centres were advised to share their doses among themselves to prevent shortage.

There was a huge crowd at the vaccination site at the Tirunelveli Collectorate. Valliammal from Sankarankovil was in tears after she was told to come on Saturday. “After my blood pressure was checked, I was asked to wait for a while. Even as I was waiting, a few people got vaccinated. But after a 30-minute wait, I was told to come again tomorrow for vaccination as they apparently don’t have sufficient stocks,” she said. Collector V. Vishnu said the spurt in demand over the past few days led to this situation.

Shortage was reported at several centres in Madurai district. In Dharmapuri, the 2,800 doses available for the day were exhausted by the evening, so that most of the PHCs turned people away. At Namakkal Government Hospital, the authorities said there was a shortage of vaccines on Friday and supply was expected at the earliest.

A few elderly persons who visited the Kumarasamipatti Urban Primary Health Centre (Salem) complained that they had to return after waiting in long queues.

Vellore, Dindigul, Theni and Tenkasi had adequate stocks.

Health Department officials said one lakh doses of Covaxin would arrive on Friday night and two lakh doses of Covishield on Saturday morning.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 8:16:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/coronavirus-several-districts-face-vaccine-shortage-in-tamil-nadu/article34340097.ece

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