With the third phase of the coronavirus vaccination drive set to begin from Saturday, several states have said that they do not have enough vaccines to inoculate residents between the age group of 18-44, indicating that they are likely to miss the launch of the immunisation programme, reported PTI.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Assam, among other states, have already raised the matter of vaccine shortages, while Punjab, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are some of those that have said vaccinations will be delayed for adults.
However, the Centre has repeatedly denied that there is any vaccine shortage.
The third phase of inoculation will cover everyone aged over 18 years. The registration process for the third phase of the vaccination drive began on Wednesday. So far, more than 2.28 crore people have registered themselves for getting vaccinated in the third phase. However, those who have registered have not been able to book a vaccination appointment for themselves.
Here are the states that are likely to miss the May 1 launch.
Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the vaccination drive for all above 18 years in the state may get delayed in view of the shortage of doses. “We are not getting adequate doses of vaccines,” he told reporters. “That is why we are facing problems. We have staff and required infrastructure for vaccination.”
The minister did not say when the state will be able to start the vaccination drive and just said: “I feel that we may not start by that time [May 1].”
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay said the vaccination drive for the 18-45 age group will start latest by May 15 instead of May 1.
The registration process for the phase has begun in the state. However, the pharmaceutical companies to which the state government has given orders for vaccine doses are yet to deliver them, according to the chief minister.
“Earlier, we had ordered 1.5 crore doses of vaccine, but now we have increased it to 2.5 crore doses,” Rupani said. “We have placed orders of two crore doses of Covishield vaccines from Serum Institute of India and 50 lakh doses of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech.”
The state government is planning to lead the country and vaccinate the maximum number of people, he said. “Once we get the required stock to launch the drive, it will go on uninterruptedly,” Rupani added.
A senior official of the Telangana health department told PTI that the state needs four crore doses to start mass vaccination.
“We are in touch with the manufacturers also,” said Telangana Public Health Director G Srinivasa Rao. “We are in search of the vaccine.”
Rao told the news agency that there was no certainty on when stocks would be available for the vaccination drive.
Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar appealed to people to refrain from going to hospitals thinking that they will receive the vaccination on May, reported ANI.
Sudhakar said that the state government has placed an order of over 1 crore doses with the Serum Institute of India but the company has expressed inability to deliver the shots on Saturday.
“We will definitely intimate people after the confirmation that we obtain from the Serum Institute,” he added.
A senior official of the Andhra Pradesh government also cited a delay in procuring vaccine from manufacturers to launch the drive on May 1 as planned, reported PTI.
The official said that the state government has already written to the manufacturers for vaccine supplies but is yet to receive any confirmation from them.
An official release from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s office said that based on the availability of stocks, the complete vaccination process for the age group of 18 to 44 years in the country will not be completed until January next year.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Thursday said the national Capital has run out of vaccines.
“We have made requests to the company regarding vaccines, we will tell you when it comes,” Jain said, adding that vaccine manufacturers were yet to provide a schedule of supply to the Delhi government.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday also told people not to queue up for vaccines from May 1. He assured the public that they will all be vaccinated over the next three months.
Officials have said that Delhi will procure 67 lakh doses of Covishield from the Serum Institute and the first tranche of three lakh doses will be delivered by May 3.
Maharashtra government was also struggling to arrange for stocks for vaccinating adults up to 44 years of age, which is the largest demographic group in the state, unidentified officials said.
“A vaccination schedule will be announced once planning for procurement of vaccine stocks is done,” said Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, reported The Times of India.
Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma too expressed doubts about whether vaccination of 18-45-year-olds will begin in the state by the first week of May. He cited the shortage of vaccines, but also pointed toward the results of Assembly elections in the state, scheduled to be announced on May 2.
“Vaccine order has been given to Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute,” he said. “When they provide us the vaccines, only then can we begin the vaccination.”
Referring to the election results, Sarma added: “Because of these processes, I don’t think vaccination of the 18-45 bracket will begin in the first week of May. But registration will begin on the portal.”
While Uttar Pradesh is expected to do a token drive on May 1, Madhya Pradesh will put off vaccinations for the 60+ and the 45+ age groups for two days to concentrate on the new age bracket on May 1, according to The Times of India.
Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have also said they are not likely to start vaccinations on Saturday, saying that the Centre hijacked vaccine stocks from manufacturers, leaving very little for them.
The health ministers of these states, including Punjab’s, also accused the Centre of meting out “step-motherly treatment” toward the Opposition-ruled states in terms of differential pricing of the vaccines, release of critical medicines like Remdesivir and oxygen supply.
Centre denies shortages of vaccines
Denying shortages of vaccines, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said that the Centre allocated doses to the governments according to their performance in terms of vaccination. “We have given more than 16 crore doses of vaccines to states, out of which more than 15 crores doses have been administered,” he said.
Vardhan said that this means over 1 crore doses are still available with the states. “More than 20 Lakh [20,48,890] vaccine doses will be received in addition by the States/UTs within the next three days,” the Union health ministry said in a release.
Meanwhile, India on Friday registered 3,86,452 coronavirus cases, pushing the overall count of infections to 1,87,62,976 since the pandemic first broke out in India in January 2020. This is the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far, and the ninth consecutive day when India has recorded more than 3 lakh cases.
With 3,498 deaths, the toll climbed to 2,08,330. There are 31,70,228 active cases and the recovery tally stood at 1,53,84,418.
India has so far administered 15,22,45,179 coronavirus doses. As many as 22,24,548 shots were given on Thursday alone.