States wary of Covid vaccine shortage, to delay May 1 drive
Several states, including Delhi, have indicated they may have to delay the third phase of the vaccination drive for all adults in the country as jabs against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) may not be immediately available due to shortage of stocks and delay in deliveries. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have also said they do not have adequate vaccine doses so it will not be able to initiate the vaccination drive from Saturday, May 1.
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. 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. The state has also started talks with other manufacturers, Johnson and Johnson and Zydus Cadilla, for import of vaccines amid the meagre supply of Covishield and Covaxin from two domestic manufacturers.
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Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Thursday that vaccination for people in the age group of 18-44 in the state will not start from May 1 as they don't have enough supply of the vaccine doses in time. "On contacting the manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin vaccines, we learnt that they are unable to give us doses for those above 18 years of age on May 1. So the drive covering the young people won't start on May 1," Chouhan said in a video message on Thursday night. "Hopefully we will be getting vaccine doses around May 3. After that we will give the final shape to the drive for the young people. Keep patience and there is no need to panic," the chief minister added.
The Punjab health department said it will not be possible to start the third phase of the campaign to vaccinate all above 18 years of age from May 1 as was announced by the central government because of shortage of doses. The Punjab government is likely to get the schedule for the delivery of the anti-coronavirus disease shots ordered by Friday. “No assurance has been given by the two vaccine manufactures about the delivery. But in a meeting through video conferencing, the Centre on Thursday assured the states that the manufactures will convey about the supply of doses tomorrow,” principal secretary (health and family welfare) Hussan Lal said. Lal said the date of starting the vaccination drive will depend on the schedule and the consequent delivery of doses.
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani on Thursday said the Covid-19 vaccination drive for the 18-45 age group in the state will start latest by May 15 instead of the first day of the month. The state government said that the process to vaccinate people of this age group will begin once it gets substantial number of doses from pharmaceutical companies, which are yet to deliver them. The registration process for the vaccination of people from this category has begun in the state.
Telangana's public health director G Srinivasa Rao said though the state government is in touch with vaccine manufacturers, there is no certainty on when the stocks would be available for the mass vaccination. "We are in search of the vaccine. We require around four crore doses," Rao told PTI.
According to a senior official in the Andhra Pradesh government, inoculation may not start on May 1 in the state as planned due to the delay in the procurement of vaccine from manufacturers. The state government has already written to the manufacturers for vaccine supplies and yet to get confirmation from them, the official added. A release from Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's office said as per the availability of stocks, the complete vaccination process for this age group in the country will not be completed until January next year.
The next phase of vaccination for those above 18 years of age will not begin in Bihar from May 1, a top health official said, citing inability of Serum Institute of India (SII) in supplying the vaccines in bulk. Manoj Kumar, executive director of Bihar State Health Society, said on Thursday SII refused to supply one crore vials of the vaccine demanded by the Bihar government. Instead, SII wanted the state government to place its monthly requirement.
In Jharkhand too, officials said that the inoculation drive covering people aged between 18-44 years was likely to begin in state after May 15 when the vaccines arrive. State health minister Banna Gupta claimed that the two vaccine manufacturing companies in the country expressed inability to provide vaccines before May 15, as the Centre already placed an advance booking of 120 million doses with them. “The (vaccine manufacturing) companies said they will have to deliver the Centre’s order by May 15. They said there was no chance of providing vaccines to Jharkhand before May 15, and that they will consider our order in the last week of May,” Gupta said.
The immunisation drive was opened to all adults by the Centre last week and states and private hospitals were allowed to procure the vaccines doses directly from manufacturers at prices fixed by the private companies. Experts have recommended that quickly vaccinating all adults was crucial to fighting the devastating surge of infections in the second and deadly wave of the pandemic.