Two Andhra Districts Run Out of Covid-19 Vaccines, Health Minister Seeks 1 Cr Doses from Centre

Ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s Covid-19 review meet with all state chief ministers, Andhra Pradesh has joined Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh in demand for more vaccines. Alarm bells were sounded after two districts in Andhra Pradesh — Nellore and West Godavari — ran out of Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday. The state health department has expressed concern as the state will exhaust all doses by Thursday if a fresh batch of vaccines is not sent at the earliest.

“Presently the state government has only 3.7 lakh vaccine doses. Our daily consumption stands at 1.3 lakh doses. We have the capability of vaccinating up to 3 lakh beneficiaries a day, but aren’t able to do so due to scarcity of doses. So going at this level, the state could run out of vaccines by Thursday”, highly placed sources within the state health department said.

This crisis comes to light a week after Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh, Aditya Nath Das wrote to Union Health Ministry demanding 1 crore vaccine doses.

Sources said the central government has responded to them on March 27 assuring that ‘1,57,210 doses would reach the state by April 2 and that adequate quantities of vaccines would be provided based on continuous review of available stocks and pace of vaccination.”

The delay in the arrival of fresh vaccine doses has forced the state government to slow down the vaccine pace for the time being. Until April 5, the state government had successfully administered 1.32 lakh Covid-19 doses to beneficiaries. However, on April 6, only 91,000 doses were doled out. Nellore could manage to conduct only 1 vaccination session with a skeletal stock of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Those who turned up for the second dose had to return home without a jab.

VACCINATION DRIVE PARTIALLY HIT

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has set an ambitious target of vaccinating 1 crore people in the next four weeks. Subsequently, the vaccination drive in the state picked up the pace with an average of over 1.3 lakh daily inoculations. But several districts now complain that they have been first prioritizing vaccines to healthcare workers and frontline workers, and then administering the rest to anyone above the age of 45.

“On most days everyone who turns up at our hospital gets inoculated. We have been seeing decent turnout ever since the state government embarked on an awareness drive to get more people inoculated, but at present, most hospitals are struggling to administer doses due to massive shortage of vaccines & syringes”, a private doctor based out of Nellore said, requesting anonymity.

News18’s calls to Andhra Pradesh health commissioner Katamaneni Bhaskar went unanswered but another official from the state health department said, vaccine shortage issue is temporary and that the inoculation drive will pick up pace as soon as a fresh consignment of vaccines arrive from the Centre.

RISING COVID CASES

The rising number of Covid-19 cases in the state is turning out to be a huge cause of concern. Andhra Pradesh recorded 2,231 cases in the last 24 hours, the highest number of daily infections since November 2020. Krishna, Chittoor, Guntur, Visakhapatnam and Nellore are among the worst-affected districts with localised outbreaks driving second wave of infections.

Authorities say the only solution to break the chain of transmissions is to ensure maximum number of people falling in the priority group of age 45 and above get vaccinated.

“While it is up to the Centre whether vaccination should open for all, on our part, we have been trying hard to vaccinate as many number of people as possible. Healthcare workers, frontline warriors, Anganwadi and ASHA workers have been conducting door-to-door surveys to keep a tab on eligible beneficiaries and get them vaccinated. To continue this momentum, our only appeal to Centre is to sanction us 1 crore vaccines to fight coronavirus and protect everyone,” the health official said.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in a sharp response to Maharashtra’s shortage of vaccine claims said the crisis is due to the state government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic.

“I would again like to stress to all States that the Central Government is doing everything it can to help them. India has the unique advantage of having talented scientists and doctors and hard-working healthcare workers. All of us need to work hard and work together to defeat this pandemic. Let us not squander the gains we have made and focus on our solemn public duty,” he said in an official statement.

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