The rollout of coronavirus vaccines for the 18-44 age group should have been deferred, Dr NK Arora, the chairperson of the Centre’s Covid Working Group told NDTV on Saturday, amid shortage of doses in the country.

“Clearly there is no vaccine available,” Arora said. “There is a shortage. Globally also, vaccines are not available.”

Arora added that India had sufficient vaccines to inoculate frontline workers and those above the age of 45.

“In a simple way, prioritisation was done sometime in September October last year,” Arora was quoted as saying by the news channel. “And it was very clear, as per the availability, that the immediate purpose of vaccination will be to reduce morbidity and mortality. And, obviously, the highest-risk population is to be targeted.”

Several states in India are facing shortages of vaccines as manufacturers have not been able to meet supply requirements. At least eight of them have decided to float global tenders for procuring the doses as they struggle to inoculate those in the age group of 18-44, who became eligible for the shots in third phase of vaccination that rolled out on May 1.

However, Arora said that floating tenders may not help. He added that there were hardly any vaccine doses available globally as the manufactures already been “cornered” by some of the high-income countries, according to the news channel.

The Centre has been criticised for exporting over six crore vaccine doses to other countries under its Vaccine Maitri initiative.

On Wednesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party said the 84% of the coronavirus vaccines exported so far by the Centre were part of commercial and licensing liabilities of the two manufacturers, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.

India is battling a massive second wave of the coronavirus, with hospitals across the country struggling with acute shortages of oxygen, beds and medical supplies.

India on Saturday recorded 3,26,098 new coronavirus cases, taking the total count of infections to 2,43,72,907 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. The country’s toll rose to 2,66,207 as it registered 3,890 deaths in the last day.

As many as 3,53,299 patients recovered from the infection in the last day, taking the total number of recoveries in India to 2,04,32,898. The number of recoveries exceeded the new daily cases for the fourth time in five days, according to the health ministry.

The number of active cases in India stood at 36,73,802 on Saturday morning, comprising 15.07% of the total infections.