Vaccination for those in the 18 to 45 age group remained largely a non-starter as the third phase of inoculation kicked off in India on Saturday. Almost all states have expressed their inability to start vaccinating the wider group due to shortage of stocks. A few states, where the third phase started, it was limited to sporadic centres in a few districts.
In national Capital Delhi, those in the newly added age group could be vaccinated at only one centre, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, according to ANI. Speaking to reporters, Kejriwal said that the city had received 4.5 lakh doses, which was being distributed in all districts. He added that large scale vaccinations would only begin from May 3.
Maharashtra, which had earlier ruled out vaccination for the 18 to 45 age group from May 1, received three lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine late on Friday, The Indian Express reported. The government then scrambled to send some shots to each of the 36 districts in the state to mark rollout of the third phase of inoculation. In Mumbai, around 20,000 shots were available for the new beneficiaries in just five centres of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, NDTV reported. However, the centres remain shut till Sunday for those above 45 years of age due to shortage of vaccines.
Vaccination began in Pune, one of the worst-affected districts as well.
The Uttar Pradesh government started the third phase of vaccination in seven districts of Lucknow, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Meerut and Bareilly, PTI reported. Chief Minister Adityanath said that the state has placed an order for 50 lakh vaccines with both the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
On Saturday, the chief minister launched the third phase of vaccination in the state at Avantibai Hospital in Lucknow.
In Gujarat, the process began in 10 districts of the state, according to the chief minister’s office. In neighbouring Rajasthan, where Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot launched the drive, beneficiaries in the 18 to 45 age group were vaccinated in just three districts of Ajmer, Jaipur and Jodhpur, according to News18.
Several of the remaining states have deferred the rollout of the third phase and many of them are unsure of when they would be able to start the process as the manufacturers have not provided them with a supply schedule, The Hindu reported.
Last month too, at least seven states – Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana – had reported shortage of vaccines. The burden is likely to increase with around 60 crore more citizens in the 18 to 45 age group becoming eligible for the shots in the third phase.
Under the new vaccination policy, 50% of the shots manufactured will be earmarked for the Centre. This quota will be used to inoculate priority groups who were already eligible for the shots. So, only half of the vaccines manufactured from May 1 will have to be used to accommodate the 60 crore new beneficiaries.
Even if the projected ramped up capacity of manufacturers is taken into account, the Serum Institute is expected to produce 10 crore doses of Covishield, Bharat Biotech will churn out one crore doses of Covaxin and Dr Reddy’s will make 40 lakh vials of Sputnik V by the month of June, according to The Times of India.
This would not even cover the 40 crore people in the priority groups that the government had hoped to vaccinate by August. The figure does not even take into account the new beneficiaries.
So far, more than 15.32 crore shots have been administered, while 2.71 crore beneficiaries have received both their doses, according to government data.