Officials Deny Shortage of Doses, Cite Curbs As Covid-19 Cases Peak

India’s vaccination levels reached a record high of 2.48 crore doses in the April 3-9 week. This was just ahead of the second Covid-19 wave hitting the country hard. However, the vaccination numbers soon fell sharply instead of rising further in the wake of strict restrictions reintroduced by many states.

The Union government is concerned over the issue and it was raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during in a meeting with 11 chief ministers on April 23 wherein he said the vaccination programme “should not slow down in this situation”. However, the opposite seems to have happened.

Sample this: 2.07 crore vaccinations were carried out in the April 10-16 week, 1.7 crore in the April 17-23 week, and 1.48 crore in the April 24- 30 week. The last available full week’s figure (1.48 crore) reveals the number has dropped by 40 per cent from the April 3-9 week.

In the first three days of May, just about 35 lakh vaccinations have been carried out and a little over 15 lakh are expected on Tuesday, taking the number to over 50 lakh for the first four days of this week. This may mean the vaccination numbers could further fall across the first week of May (1-7).

Reasons Behind Fall

News18 spoke to two senior central government functionaries, who denied vaccine shortage and said the ongoing restrictions in many states was a big factor behind the falling numbers. “People are wary of stepping out of their homes for vaccination, given the rampaging second wave and the lockdowns. With queues seen at vaccination sites, people feel they might contract the coronavirus if they join the crowd at these centres. Many states have stipulated that people going for vaccination should not be stopped during the lockdown, but the message needs more clarity,” an official told News18.

Another official spoke about “improper resource mapping” by state governments, stating that urban centres were seeing more demand for vaccinations, even as some states had allocated much fewer numbers there. “From the Centre, ample supplies have gone to states and there is no shortage of vaccines,” the official said. He cited a government statement issued earlier in the day that said the Centre had provided 16.69 crore vaccine doses to states and Union territories, more than 75 lakh doses are still available with states and an additional 48 lakh doses will be received by them in the next three days. However, some opposition-ruled states have complained of vaccine shortage.

PM’s Advice & Way Ahead

The PM, while speaking to the CMs on April 23, had told them the vaccination programme should not be affected at a time when cases were spiraling in the second wave.

“We will need to work in a mission mode to get more and more people vaccinated,” the PM had said the CMs. He had also flagged that it was possible that hospital staff on vaccination duty could be diverted to the treatment of Covid patients in view of rising hospitalisation numbers, and had stressed the need for dedicated staff on vaccination duties, News18 has learnt.

The Centre was, in fact, hoping for vaccination numbers to improve from May with the 18-44 population being made eligible for inoculation, but limited stocks with states on that front from two private suppliers has meant modest coverage so far. Only 4.06 lakh people of the 18-44 age group have been vaccinated in the first three days of May, as only 12 states have the stocks from Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech that are supplying Covishield and Covaxin, respectively. This supply chain is expected to improve after May 20.

As reported by News18, the country is expected to have received over 45 crore doses of vaccines by July since the beginning of the drive, enough to vaccinate nearly a quarter of the adult population with both doses. So far, 15.8 crore doses have been administered. The central and state governments, along with the private sector, aim to get 30 crore more doses in the three months till July, given the projected availability of stocks of Covishield and Covaxin. However, that coverage of the population will happen only if the vaccination speed increases now.

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