Maharashtra and Karnataka on Wednesday said they were temporarily suspending coronavirus vaccination for the 18-44 age group, reported The Hindu. They said that priority will be given to citizens above 45 who need their second dose.
The Maharashtra government cited a shortage of vaccines for the decision.
“Presently, we get vaccines from two companies only,” said state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said after a Cabinet meeting. “Therefore, the central government cannot supply enough vaccines for the vaccination of those above 45 years. It is mandatory to give [the] second dose to ensure [the] effectiveness of first.”
About 16 lakh residents have been administered the first shot of Covishield and 4 lakh individuals given Covaxin in the state. “At present, we have 7 lakh doses of Covishield and 3 lakh doses of Covaxin,” he said. “We will deliver to all those above 45 years within three days now.”
Tope added that Serum Institute of India Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawala has informed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray that his company would deliver one-and-a-half crore vaccines per month after May 20. “Decision on 18 to 44 [year age group] will be taken thereafter, considering the availability of vaccines,” he said.
The health minister said that the decision to divert vaccines for those above 45 years was a scientific decision, which is important for their health. On the lockdown imposed in the state, Tope said that many ministers at the Cabinet meeting wanted to extend the curbs for 15 more days.
Karnataka has a stock of about 7 lakh Covishield vaccine doses for the 18-44 age group and more consignments are awaited. “On May 7, the government decided to utilise the complete supply of vaccines provided by the Government of India only for vaccination of persons above 45 years and for vaccinating beneficiaries who were due for second dose,” the state government said in a statement.
The suspension will come into effect from Friday.
On April 30, Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar had appealed to the residents aged between 18-44 to refrain from visiting vaccination centres from May 1, hinting that the state had no stocks, according to The Hindu.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Karnataka government decided to design its own website for registration for the vaccination process as an alternative as many citizens were finding it difficult to book slots on the Centre’s Co-WIN portal, reported The New Indian Express.
When immunisation for the residents aged between 18 and 44 resumes, the website will be used as a registration, tracking and information portal on the vaccination drive.
On Wednesday, Delhi also said citizens under the age of 45 will not get Covaxin shots from Thursday as supplies have run short. The Delhi government added that stocks of Covaxin will last for next four days and those have to be reserved for frontline workers and those above 45.
The Delhi government said it has to prioritise those who received the first dose around four weeks ago and urged the Centre to ensure uninterrupted supplies. On Wednesday, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had said that Delhi had been forced to shut down over 100 vaccination centres because of a lack of Covaxin doses.
India is battling a severe second wave of the coronavirus. Hospitals across the country are struggling with acute shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies. Several states had to defer the third phase of vaccination, covering all above 18 years, due to a scarcity of doses.
On Thursday, India reported 3,62,727 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 2,37,03,665 since the pandemic broke out in January last year, shows government data. With 4,120 deaths, the toll climbed to 2,58,317.