Limited vaccination for 18-44 age group to begin in Maharashtra today
The vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group will begin in the state in a limited way from today, depending on the availability of the stock, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray announced on Friday, in his live address from social media platforms. He said Maharashtra was capable of fulfilling the responsibility put by the Centre on it to inoculate all adults. He also said that the state is prepared to buy the entire stock of 120 million doses at one go and requested the Centre to help Maharashtra get maximum stock.
“Maharashtra is starting its drive for the 18-44 age group from Saturday onwards, but it will be based on the availability of the stock as the production is limited. We have been told that the state will receive 18 lakh (1.8 million) doses in May, but have not got a specific date on which the stock will be delivered. We have received 300,000 doses which has been distributed based on the number of patients and population,” the CM said.
Expanding the nationwide drive, the Centre threw open vaccination for all adults from May 1, asking the states to inoculate the 18-44 age group by procuring doses from the open market. To be sure, the Centre on Friday clarified the third phase of vaccination of 18-44 age group can only be executed using vaccines bought by the states and private hospitals directly from manufacturers. The Centre is providing the stock for vaccination of those above 45 and priority groups, which the states don’t have to pay for. While SII, the manufacturer of Covishield, has priced its vaccines at ₹300 for states, Bharat Biotech, the maker of Covaxin, has priced the vaccine at ₹400 for states.
According to the state government figures, about 60 million of its population falls under the age group of 18-44 and will require 120 million doses to get them immunised from the virus.
It has already declared to provide free doses of the vaccine for all adults at government-run centres. The decision was taken in the state cabinet meeting held on Wednesday. For this, it has estimated a spending of ₹6500 crore. “The Centre has put the responsibility of inoculating all those who come under 18-44 age group and Maharashtra is capable of doing so. We are prepared to buy the entire stock in one go because we want to come out of this situation. The preparation has been made despite the financial crunch as life is more important for us. But limited production of vaccine doses is a problem,” Thackeray informed.
“We have been told that by June-July, the production is going to be increased, but till then we have to show some restraint and avoid crowding the vaccination centres. We also want to request the central government to please provide us maximum stock and if that happens Maharashtra would be the first state to defeat this crisis.”
He said that in the beginning, there may be some mess but it will become smooth with time. The chief minister also said 300,000 doses received for the 18-44 age group are too low compared to the vaccination capacity of the state. “We have set a record of vaccinating more than 500,000 beneficiaries in a day. We have the capacity to vaccinate one million in a day,” he said. Thackeray was keen on launching the drive on May 1 as the day is celebrated as Maharashtra’s foundation day, which the CM mentioned in his address saying it is also celebrated as Worker’s Day.
“The chief minister intends to start the vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group in a limited way. It is because we celebrate May 1 as Maharashtra Day and the Centre also wants it to be started on the same day. The CM will share more details,” Tope told reporters earlier in the day. Tope said the state may start the drive with one centre in a district as they have very limited stock of vaccine doses. “Serum Institute of India has informed us that they can provide 1,400,000 -1,500,000 vials in May whereas Bharat Biotech said they can provide between 400,000 and 450,000 doses next month. Together, we are expecting to get around 1.8 million doses in May. Based on this, the state can start the drive at limited centres which may be limited to one in each district,” the health minister said.
The state has divided the stock of 300,000 vials among districts based on their population of adults and has also asked to limit the number of centres to five, said Dr DN Patil, state immunisation officer. “The stock has already been dispatched to all districts, based on the population. We are trying to cover at least five days with this stock,” Dr Patil said.
The chief minister requested PM Narendra Modi to give nod to the state to prepare apps for the process that can be linked with Centre’s Co-Win.
Thackeray also said Maharashtra’s Covid-19 situation is better due to restraint shown by all and there is no need for stricter lockdown. “There were concerns that the tally of active cases will reach one million by May 1 but we could restrain them around 0.7 million cases because of the restraint shown by you...The entire world is facing a number of waves and experts have said that a third wave is going to come. We have started our preparations. We were preparing for the second wave as well but had not anticipated it would be so huge.”