Don’t be unrealistic on Covid-19 jabs, Centre tells states

  • The government’s policy has been criticised by several sates who have said that they are not receiving enough doses to vaccinate people in the 18-44 age group, inoculation for which began on May 1.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan inspects a newly installed oxygen generation plant installed at visits RML Hospital to review preparedness amid rise in number of Covid-19 cases, in New Delhi.(PTI)
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan inspects a newly installed oxygen generation plant installed at visits RML Hospital to review preparedness amid rise in number of Covid-19 cases, in New Delhi.(PTI)
Updated on May 13, 2021 06:31 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

States should not have any unrealistic and impractical expectations when it comes to coronavirus vaccines, especially with the limited supplies currently, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Wednesday as he reviewed the immunisation progress with health ministers of eight states.

The Union government has made it mandatory for vaccine makers in India – at present, the two shots being used widely are both made in India – to keep 50% of their doses for the central supply, while the remaining will be evenly split between private procurers and state governments.

The health minister said this was done to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines across the country and to make sure that people who needed second doses were not left stranded. The government’s policy has been criticised by several sates who have said that they are not receiving enough doses to vaccinate people in the 18-44 age group, inoculation for which began on May 1.

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He said that the country’s total vaccine production capacity in the month of May was going to touch about 80 million doses, which was expected to go up to about 90 million doses by June. Vardhan said the central government was making all efforts to further ramp up vaccine production in the country in the coming weeks.

“There is a limit to the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses available at a particular time, and in a particular month. Keeping that limit in mind, scientifically, and systematically, the vaccine doses are divided, and related information is duly shared with the states. So, all states know how many vaccine doses are available to them at a particular time, and how much is there in the pipeline. Therefore, I specially request you all to understand the gravity and seriousness of the issue, and don’t have any unrealistic or impractical expectations,” the health minister said.

“We should also ensure that there is rational and judicious use of vaccines without any wastage,” he added.

“Also, the vaccines that are being manufactured outside India, especially those that received USFDA and other major regulatory approvals, and WHO approval, these vaccines have also been given easier provision for getting emergency use authorisation. To win the Covid-19 battle in the country, a big weapon was added into the test, track, and treat list, and that is Covid-19 vaccination, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched on January 16...,” he said during the review.

Also Read | States can procure only 20 million Covid-19 jabs for 18+ in May

While the health minister acknowledged that India was the fastest country globally to reach the landmark of 170 million doses in 114 days, he also pointed out that out of these, the second dose has been administered to only to close to 40 million. The first dose has so far been administered to about 131 million beneficiaries.

“Hence it is very important that we first focus more on second dose vaccinations. States should not lose sight of those who are to get the second dose of COVID vaccine: 70% at minimum ought to be allocated to meet the requirement of second dose, while 30% ought to be reserved for the first dose.” Dr Harsh Vardhan also urged states to ensure that the healthcare workers and frontline workers are fully vaccinated, as they form the vulnerable categories,” he said.

The states that participated in the review were Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Telangana, along with the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.


The health minister also highlighted the trajectory of Covid-19 in these states, and how the rising cases were putting stress on the medical infrastructure.

“Although in the last 24 hours, 3.48 lakh new cases were registered, a net decline of 11,122 cases is recorded in the active caseload. This is the second consecutive day of decline in the active cases,” he said, and emphasised upon the continued need to follow Covid-19-appropriate behavior.

He also said there should also be stringent focus on containment measures for addressing the present surge, especially creating micro-containment zones to track and isolate cases.

According to the director, National Centre for Disease Control, Dr SK Singh, the apparent disease shift towards younger population was driven by the fact that higher age groups have been vaccinated in considerable proportion by now.

“There should be ramp up of testing and vaccination in peri-urban areas as the spread is now going to peri-urban and rural places. Irrespective of the Covid-19 variants, measures for preparedness and protection remain the same,” Dr Singh said.

Experts also said it could be a reason, even though the pattern needs to be further analysed in detail. “Younger people are now apparently getting infected more because a greater proportion of young people are susceptible (not infected so far), and not vaccinated,” said Dr Giridhara R Babu, head, epidemiology, Indian Institute of Public Health.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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