Govt again denies vaccine shortage as Indian states stare at stock crisis
The Centre on Wednesday continued with its dismissive stance on vaccine shortage in the country amid the raging coronavirus crisis even as states continue to flag the depleted or near-depleted stocks of drugs.
Faced with two of its worst possible crisis during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic—record spikes in daily cases of Covid-19 and what several states have claimed a shortage of vaccine against the viral disease, India is grappling to bring the surge under control.
Stating that the states are tasked with efficient distribution, the Union health minister said that the government has provided the states with vaccines.
"There is no shortage of vaccines and the government of India gives vaccines to every state. It is the job of states to provide vaccine doses at the vaccination centres in a time-bound manner with meticulous planning," Harsh Vardhan said, reported news agency ANI.
In the last few days, several states have reached out to the Centre for assistance as many claimed that their stocks will not last for long. Responding to the requests and concerns, the Union health minister previously said the country has enough doses and urged state governments to put an end to “fear-mongering”.
The list of states which have flagged the shortage and sought re-stocking from the Centre includes Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Assam.
While Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand complained that they are facing a shortage of vaccines last week, reports emerged from several other states that vaccine centres were shutting early or turning people away due to supplies running out.
The reports of shortage come amid mass Covid-19 vaccination drive ‘Tika Utsav’ launch by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which began on Sunday across the country.
Officials said that in places such as Nainital and Tehri Garhwal in Uttarakhand, Rajsamand and Pratapgarh in Rajasthan, Sitara and Panvel in Maharashtra and Morena in Madhya Pradesh, the drive had to be stopped midway as centres ran out of stock.
Shortages were also reported from other places such Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar, forcing state governments to scale down their daily vaccination targets.
The health minister said that the country is facing a shortage of key drug remdesivir in its fight against the virus but the manufacturers have been asked to amp up the production.
"The shortage of remdesivir happened because its production was reduced as Covid-19 cases were decreasing. Our drug controller and ministry held a meeting with stakeholders and asked manufacturers to strengthen the production," Harsh Vardhan was quoted as saying by ANI.
On reports of black-marketing of the drug, the Union minister said action will be taken against those indulging in exploitation, black marketing and creating an artificial shortage of remdesivir.
"The Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) has directed for strict action into any complaint of black marketing of remdesivir. Those who are exploiting people and creating an artificial shortage of medicine, strict action should be taken against them," he said, reported ANI.