Will start vaccination for 18+ only with 2.5 mn doses in hand: Maharashtra
Concerned over the availability of required quota, the Maharashtra government has decided to not roll out the vaccination drive for the third phase for the 18-44 age group, unless they have 2.5 million doses in hand. Considering the scenario of meagre supply of vaccines from two domestic manufacturers (Covishield and Covaxin), the state has also started talks with other manufacturers, namely Johnson and Johnson and Zydus Cadilla for import of vaccines. The government is also likely to open vaccination for the 18-44 age group in a staggered manner, allowing vaccination of the 26-44 age group first.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray held meetings with key ministers and officials on Thursday to chalk out a plan for the roll-out of the third phase of the drive.
The Thackeray government, in its cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, decided on free vaccination for all in the 18-44 age group.
The government is, however, concerned about the availability of the desired stock even by the end of May.
“The makers of home-grown Covaxin and Covishield have assured us the supply, but there is no clarity on the timeline. The Serum Institute of India has taken a purchase order for three lakh (300,000) doses, but it has not clarified by when they will be able to deliver the stock. We may start accumulating the stock we get from these two makers, but the roll-out would be only after we have at least 2.5 million doses in hand,” said an official privy to the developments.
“We have reached out to all makers from various countries, enquiring about the availability of vaccines and the price. We had a video-conference with the Indian executives of J&J for the procurement of their vaccine, but they have informed us their jab will be available only in August. Zydus Cadilla’s vaccine too is expected to be available by August. The talks for the Sputnik V are on at chief minister’s level. We have established contacts with almost all vaccine companies in our bid for speedy procurement,” said public health minister Rajesh Tope.
Tope said that Pfizer’s jab will be available for ₹1500, while Chinese vaccines are available at ₹750.
The state has almost arrived at the decision of opening the third phase for the age group of 26-44 years and comorbid people in the younger age group in the first leg. The decision is expected to be taken in the meeting of core committee of senior ministers in the next couple of days.
“It is clear that the CM wants to avoid the hardships people are going through currently owing to non-availability of doses. It will not only lead to criticism, but also chaos among the working class,” the official quoted above said.
Tope said the state has targeted a procurement of 120 million doses of the vaccine to complete the drive in record time.
“We are ready to pay the vaccine manufacturers immediately, but they are not able to make the doses available. We have requested them to make the vaccines available on priority and apprise us of the schedule,” said Tope.
The minister said the state expects positive response from global players to the expression of interest floated by them for medical equipment and drugs.
“We expect the response to our expression for 25,000 metric tonnes of oxygen, 4,000 oxygen concentrators, 250 PSA plants and 20 liquid oxygen storage tanks by Monday. Besides, we have directed our district administrations to complete setting up of oxygen plants at the earliest. There is a prediction of the third wave of virus by July-August, for which the district administrations have been instructed to be prepared. Of the 125 PSA plants of oxygen generators planned at district level, most are expected to come up in the next 10 days,” he said.