A medical worker inoculates a woman with the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine, at a health centre in New Delhi on April 29. (AFP)
A medical worker inoculates a woman with the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine, at a health centre in New Delhi on April 29. (AFP)

Short of doses, Delhi to keep expanded jabs drive on hold

Of the 13.4 million doses needed by the Capital, Delhi will get the first batch of 300,000 shots only by May 3 from Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures Covishield, the mainstay of India’s vaccination programme, senior officials aware of developments said.
By Sweta Goswami, Anonna Dutt, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON APR 30, 2021 04:05 AM IST

The Capital is unlikely to start the third phase of Covid-19 vaccination from Saturday because the state government hasn’t received its first order of jabs and private hospitals may get consignments weeks later, even as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that Delhi will expand inoculation centres and finish immunising everyone in three months.

Of the 13.4 million doses needed by the Capital, Delhi will get the first batch of 300,000 shots only by May 3 from Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures Covishield, the mainstay of India’s vaccination programme, senior officials aware of developments said.

“We don’t have enough vaccines. We have requested for procurement of vaccines from the respective companies. Despite all preparations being made, availability of vaccines is a must for the inoculation to begin,” said Delhi health minister Satyender Jain.

Last week, the Centre opened the immunisation drive to all adults and allowed states and private hospitals to procure directly from vaccine manufacturers. Experts said that quickly vaccinating all adults was crucial to fighting the devastating surge of infections.

Registration for this phase began on Wednesday, but Delhi, like many states, signalled that vaccines may not be immediately available due to shortage of stocks and delay in deliveries.

“We haven’t received the schedule from companies yet, which includes how many vials will reach on which dates,” Jain said. Delhi will administer the jabs free of cost.

Delhi government divided the order for 13.4 million doses into three consignments — 300,000, 5,000,000 and 8,100,000 . So far, only the first batch has been ordered and the second is in the process of being ordered. As of now, both the orders are being prepared for SII, an official said.

The situation, though, is hardly unique to the Capital. Doses required for adults below 45 are to be acquired directly by the state governments and private hospitals — which can buy up to 50% of a vaccine manufacturer’s stock — but this is yet to happen.

Officials across states told HT that the doses would not be available by May 1, as did representatives of private hospitals. Only three of 16 state governments contacted by HT on Tuesday said they expected at least some doses to start arriving by the end of the first week of May. Most others said they expected deliveries only after mid-May.

But Delhi’s chief minister expressed confidence that the government will be able to get the job done in three months.

“Had a meeting with the officials on vaccination drive in Delhi. Prepared a plan to vaccinate all above 18 years in the next 3 months. We will set up vaccination centres on a large scale. All eligible people must come forward to get vaccinated,” Kejriwal said in a tweet.

There were back-to-back meetings on the issue on Thursday. Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal asked the chief secretary to urgently submit a report on the preparedness for the roll-out of the vaccination programme for those 18 years and above and Kejriwal held a meeting to review arrangements made for opening more centres and having enough medical teams.

With Centre, state governments, and private hospitals placing orders separately, the companies have announced multiple price bands.

SII is offering its doses at 150 for the Centre, 300 for state governments, and 600 for the private sector. Bharat Biotech is offering its vaccine for 150 per dose to the Centre, 400 to state governments, and 1,200 to private hospitals.

Hospitals have been asked to return all remaining doses provided by the government — for the current vaccination drive meant for 45 and above — after Friday’s vaccination and purchase their own shots.

However, private hospitals in Delhi said both vaccine manufacturers have given long waiting periods to facilities that tried to procure doses independently.

Sir Ganga Ram hospital said its order was refused by SII while Bharat Biotech said it will revert.

“We have been receiving Covishield from the government and so we approached SII first. However, they said that they do not have the capacity to provide doses at the moment. Then, we placed an order for 51 lakh doses of Covaxin but they have also said they will get back to us. Both companies have to fulfil orders for the government first,” said Dr DS Rana, the hospital chairman.

The hospital has doses that will last only till Friday and all leftover doses have to be given back to the central government.

“If we do not have the vaccines, we cannot run a vaccination centre,” said Dr Rana.

A doctor from the private Hamdard Institute of Medical Science hospital and medical college tweeted a response from SII that said the hospital had to wait for six months for the doses.

“Due to the current obligation to meet the government’s existing requirements and to meet the additional demand emanating from state governments under liberated and accelerated vaccination, it is challenging to meet independently the requirement across from large number of Private hospitals. Therefore, we urge you to access the vaccine when it becomes available in the private market supply chain channels, which will take about five – six months from now,” the tweet read.

Dr Anoop Mishra, chairman of Fortis Centre for Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol said, “Companies have to give 50% of the vaccines doses to the Centre and are therefore unsure when they can give it to the private sector. So, we will have to halt the vaccination drive after April 30.”

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