A whopping 17 states and Union Territories have expressed doubts over their ability to launch the third phase of COVID-19 vaccination, set to begin today (Saturday, 1 May), for people between the ages of 18 and 45.
These states include Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Telangana. In other states like Uttar Pradesh, the government said that the third phase of the nationwide vaccination drive will be launched only in certain districts.
This is even as India saw 3,86,452 new coronavirus infections in a span of 24 hours, the highest single-day rise so far, pushing the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,87,62,976, while active cases crossed the 31-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.
The death toll increased to 2,08,330 with 3,498 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
Several state governments had flagged the shortages in vaccine supply before the Centre announced the schedule of the third inoculation phase and its new vaccination policy. On Thursday, at least eight states had reiterated the shortages. And now, one day before the exercised is scheduled to begin, that list has grown to 17.
While Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday urged people not to line up outside vaccination centres on Saturday, Mumbai’s civic body announced the closure of vaccination centres for three days due to the shortage of stocks.
Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that the drive is likely to start from 3 May and Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa said the state will vaccinate people once vaccines become available.
“Our Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar has said clearly that the vaccine has not been supplied yet. We will vaccinate people once it arrives. Where is the question of failure? We had thought we would get the vaccine (on time) but there is a delay in the supply,” Yediyurappa said.
The situation was similar in other states like Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Madhya Pradesh.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, “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 1 May. So the drive covering the young people won’t start on 1 May.”
“Hopefully we will be getting vaccine doses around 3 May. After that we will give the final shape to the drive for the young people,” he added.
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant on Thursday said the state will start the third phase of inoculation “as and when” vaccine doses are available.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the government deferred the roll-out of the COVID-19 inoculation drive, as the state is facing some “technical” issues, PTI reported.
The third phase of the vaccination programme has been postponed for an indefinite period, National Health Mission (NHM) director for the state Dr C R Khampa said.
“The government has deferred the launch of the third phase of the vaccination drive till further orders,” he said. He, however, declined to elaborate on the “technical” issues for which the commencement of the immunisation programme has been deferred.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration also said that the drive will not begin from Saturday in the union territory. The new date will be announced once vaccine supply is established, it said.
Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education, Atal Dulloo said the Union Territory expects to receive vaccines by 20 May.
“While the registration for vaccination of eligible persons in the age group 18-45 has been opened on COWIN, the actual vaccination will not begin from 1 May 2021. It will begin from a date to be announced later once the vaccine supply is established,” the Department of Information and Public Relations said on Twitter.
The West Bengal government also said that the vaccination drive will not begin in West Bengal from Saturday due to paucity of doses.
Fortis, Max, Apollo to inoculate 18 plus in limited centres
On the other hand, hospitals like Fortis Healthcare, Max, and Apollo announced that vaccination for the newly eligible group will begin in limited centres from Saturday.
Apollo continues to participate in the world’s largest preventive vaccination drive. Vaccines available at limited Apollo hospitals @ for >18 frm May 1. Pre-Registration mandatory on CoWIN app. Stay safe
— HospitalsApollo (@HospitalsApollo) April 30, 2021
Fortis Healthcare said it would commence coronavirus vaccination for adults at all its centres in north India from Saturday, while the drive would start in other cities as soon as supplies were made available by the authorities.
“Fortis will administer COVID vaccines for 18+ at its centres across North India from tomorrow. Fortis centres in other cities will commence vaccination as soon as supplies are made available by the authorities,” a statement said.
Arvind Kejriwal tells people not to queue up outside inoculation centres
Delhi will not join the national level rollout of COVID-19 vaccination for people aged 18-44 on 1 May, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday saying that required vaccine doses have not been received yet for the drive.
He appealed to people in the targeted age group not to line up at vaccination centres in the city on 1 May. In the next one-two days, around three lakh Covishield vaccines will be received and the drive for vaccinating people in the age group 18-44 will commence, Kejriwal said in an online briefing.
“We are trying our best that within the next three months the entire population of Delhi gets vaccinated. We have formulated a plan and even the infrastructure needed for this is in place. Now it will depend on the two companies as to how swiftly they provide us with the vaccine.
“We aim to vaccinate everyone in the next three months if a sufficient quantity of vaccines is supplied by the companies,” he said.
The chief minister assured Delhi residents that everyone will be vaccinated, appealing to them not to crowd outside vaccination centres for a few days.
“I appeal to all citizens to not queue up at vaccination centres before our announcement as this might lead to violation of social distancing and create a law and order situation,” Kejriwal said.
Not possible to start vaccination in Karnataka from 1 May, says govt
Earlier in the day, health minister Sudhakar said that vaccination of people above 18 years will not start from 1 May in Karnataka.
“It is not possible for us to start vaccinating people from 18 years to 45 years from tomorrow. Please don’t take it otherwise. The moment we get official information, we will let you know,” Sudhakar told reporters.
“We have made orders to Serum Institute in Pune for over one crore doses but the official news is that they are still not prepared to give it to us from tomorrow as scheduled,” the minister added.
He asked people who have enrolled themselves on the Cowin portal for inoculation to refrain from going to vaccination centres on 1 May. The minister said the government will intimate eligible people after confirmation from the Serum Institute of India about the arrival of vaccines.
“We have already paid Rs 400 crore to purchase one crore doses of Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India in Pune,” the minister said.
Vaccination to be delayed by three-four weeks in Himachal Pradesh
The third phase of vaccination will not begin on 1 May in Himachal Pradesh, as the vaccine supply from the manufacture is expected only after three-four weeks, the government said.
It may take three-four weeks for starting the vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group in the hill state, Special Health Secretary Nipun Jindal said.
The vaccination for the age group 18-44 will not start till the supplies of the vaccines, for which an order has been placed by the state government, is not received, he said. Jindal said according to the manufacturer, it may take around three-four weeks for the supplies to begin.
He said the state government had already placed an order with the Serum Institute of India for procuring 73 lakh doses of the vaccine in a phased manner over the next three-four months.
However, it has been communicated from the manufacturer that the supplies will commence after three-four weeks, subsequent to which the third phase of vaccination will start at the government COVID Vaccination Centres (CVCs), he added.
Maharashtra to get 18 lakh vaccine doses in May, says govt
Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope on Friday said that two COVID-19 vaccine makers have told the state government that they could provide up to 18 lakh vaccine doses to the state in the month of May.
He also said that there was no clarity from the Centre over the distribution of vaccines to the state and private hospitals for vaccinating people in the age group of 18 to 44 years.
Two days back, the Maharashtra government had made it clear that the nationwide exercise of vaccinating people in this age bracket cannot be launched in the state on the first day of May as it does not have enough quantity of vaccines.
At present, vaccines of two manufacturers are available in the country: Covishield made by Serum Institute of India (SII) and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech.
“The Union government has announced that it would be buying 50 percent of vaccines from both the manufacturers. The rest of the 50 percent vaccines have to be bought by the states, private hospitals and industrial private hospitals,” Tope told reporters.
But if any state places a very high quantity order of vaccines before these two manufacturers, then whom they would supply to is the question, he said.
Additionally, vaccination was stalled in Mumbai, one of the worst-hit cities, due to a paucity of doses.
Odisha seeks 25 lakh doses of Covishield from Centre
To ensure the second dose of vaccine to people aged 45 years and above, the Odisha government on Friday asked the Centre to urgently supply at least 25 lakh doses of Covishield in a single lot.
Odisha health and family welfare minister NK Das on Friday wrote a letter to the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
Das in his letter said that Odisha is facing a crisis due to an extremely low and erratic supply of Covishield vaccines to the state. Due to such short supply, the vaccination sessions could not be conducted in more than 1,100 sites each day in the recent past and our daily achievement has drastically declined from 2.71 lakh on 3 April to 0.27 lakh people on 29 April.
Centre rejects claims of vaccine shortage
However, despite appeals from the states, the Centre maintained that the governments have “more than one crore” doses.
On Friday, the Union Health Ministry said, “The total consumption, including wastage, is 15,33,56,503 doses. More than 1 crore COVID Vaccine doses (1,00,28,527) are still available with the States/UTs to be administered. Near 20 lakh (19,81,110) vaccine doses will be received in addition by the States/UTs within the next three days.”
Later on Friday, the Centre said that states which have already coordinated with manufacturers will kick off the drive on the designated date.
“Vaccination will be launched tomorrow in some states which have already coordinated with manufacturers. Any new exercises or process takes time to pick up pace and gradually more centres will be increased. The programme will stabilise in some time,” said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry.
This is a paid programme unless the state governments subsidise it, Agarwal said, adding free vaccination of priority groups by the Government of India will continue.
He also said so far over 15 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given for free by the Centre in coordination with states.
With inputs from PTI