COVID-19 vaccination: Delays in inoculating 18-44 could severely disrupt efforts to control second wave
While all people above 18 years of age are now eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines, the key question is when adequate jabs will be available
The third phase of India's COVID-19 vaccination drive is off to a somewhat shaky start, with shortages and delays being reported across several states.
While all people above 18 are now eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines, the key question is when adequate jabs will be available. The slow start to the third phase is a major setback to the country's fight against the COVID-19 , as only about two percent of the total population is estimated to be fully vaccinated till now.
Notwithstanding a slight dip in daily coronavirus cases in the past two days, India is reporting a huge number of cases and deaths every day, and there are also widespread reports of undercounting of figures.
On Monday, the country reported 3,68,147 new coronavirus infections, taking the total tally of cases to 1,99,25,604, according to the Union Health Ministry data.
Delays in several states
The start of the third phase of vaccination has been delayed in several states due to inadequate supplies. Ahead of the third phase, as many as 17 state governments had flagged a shortage of vaccine doses and expressed doubts about being able to start the much-touted third phase of inoculation as per schedule. These 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.
While some states started the third phase on time, others started it in only select districts.
A report in India Today quotes sources as saying that Kerala won't be able to start the COVID vaccination drive for the age group of 18-44 years anytime soon as the state is yet to receive the vaccines it had ordered.
At present, the state has 3.18 lakh doses that have been provided by the Centre. The state government will reportedly give priority to those above 45 years of age and awaiting their second dose.
In Delhi as well, the government was not able to start vaccination for 18-44 years age group on 1 May. On Friday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said that the city will not join the national level rollout of COVID-19 vaccination for people aged 18-44 because the required vaccine doses had not been received.
The Delhi government has started the process for people between 18 years and 44 years of age on Monday morning, even as it deals with severe shortages of beds and medical oxygen. Around 90 lakh people are eligible for the jabs under this category in Delhi. Five vaccination booths each have been set up at 77 schools for the exercise, an official told PTI.
The Delhi government has placed orders for 1.34 crore vaccine doses, which will be delivered over the next three months. Of these, 67 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine are being procured from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India.
The Assam government was also unable to roll out the third phase of the vaccination drive on time due to the non-receipt of vaccine supply from the Centre, a top NHM official was quoted as saying by PTI.
In Karnataka, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa flagged off the COVID-19 inoculation drive for the 18-44 age group on Saturday, with only 4 lakh doses available. A report in Deccan Herald quoted him as saying, "“We will give the vaccines till they last. We hope to get more vaccines in the days to come."
In other parts of the country, shortages of vaccines are affecting supplies for older people. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said on Sunday that vaccination of the people above 45 years will not be conducted in Mumbai on Monday due to the shortage of vaccines.
Vaccination for the people in the age group of 18 to 44 years will continue at five centres in the megapolis, the civic body said.
These delays in various parts of the country are likely to severely impede the country's battle against the coronavirus . After all, the population between 18 years to 45 years will comprise a large part of the country's workforce, and are, therefore, more likely to go out in public.
The delays in ensuring supplies of COVID-19 vaccines can be explained at least partly by lags in signing purchase orders with manufacturers.
As noted by an article in Scroll, even two weeks before India’s vaccination campaign began, the country had yet to sign purchase orders with vaccine manufacturers.
It was only after cases began soaring that the government abruptly changed the rules to allow it to fast-track vaccine imports, having earlier rebuffed foreign drugmakers like Pfizer.
The Centre, on its part, has sought to shift responsibility to the states. The Union health ministry has said that more than 78 lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses are still available with the states and UTs which will receive over 56 lakh additional doses within the next 3 days.
The Centre says it has so far provided nearly 16.54 crore vaccine doses (16,54,93,410) to states and UTs free of cost. Of this, the total consumption including wastages is said to be 15,76,32,631 doses.
Notwithstanding the blame game between the Union government and the states, the fact remains that vaccine shortages are very real in several parts of the country. It is crucial that urgent steps are taken at all levels of governments to speed up inoculation in order to curb the spread of the virus at the earliest.
With inputs from PTI
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