Guwahati, May 20 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said that the state is inoculating 50,000 people against coronavirus daily, which is half of its capacity, due to a shortage of vaccines.
The government is hoping that the availability of the vaccine will improve from next month and there will be enough stock by July-August, Sarma said.
'In Assam, we have vaccinated around 35 lakh people so far. We have the capacity to vaccinate one lakh people every day, but we are doing around 50,000 only due to shortage of vaccines,' he told a press conference.
According to the National Health Mission data, the number of people vaccinated in the state is gradually coming down in the last three days. Only 38,235 people got their jabs on Wednesday compared to 60,772 persons and 69,071 persons on Tuesday and Monday respectively.
'But we hope that the situation will improve from next month on account of steps taken by the Government of India.
Zydus vaccine is in the pipeline and Sputnik has already arrived. So, I hope we will have enough vaccines by July- August,' Sarma said.
The chief minister said that the entire country is facing a shortage of vaccines.
'We are getting 5-7 lakh vaccines per month for the 45 years and above category. Another 5-6 lakh vaccines are received monthly for the 18-44 years category,' he said.
Sarma said that vaccine doses were wasted in March- April when very few people were coming for the jabs, but now there is hardly any wastage.
'We had 9 per cent wastage, which has come down to 6 per cent. As our volume increases, the wastage will come down,' he added.
On the state's inoculation plan, the chief minister said that around three crore people are eligible for vaccination in Assam and of them, about one crore are 45 years and above, who will get vaccines from the Central government.
'Then we have around 1.2 crore people in the 18-44 years age group, whose vaccination will be done by the Assam government. For those below 18 years, we don't know as of now who will vaccinate them,' he said.
The state government will require Rs 600-800 crore to provide free vaccination to 1.2 crore people, he added.
'Last year, we collected Rs 116 crore as donation from people in the Assam Arogya Nidhi account. With interest, it has increased to Rs 119 crore. This money is being used only for vaccination of the 18-44 years people,' the chief minister said.
He appealed to people to join hands with the state government in vaccinating people and donate money to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund or the Assam Arogya Nidhi.
However, Sarma clarified that the state is not in financial distress and has 'enough budget' for vaccinating its population, but people should also feel the 'happiness of giving life' to another fellow human being.
'I don't think more than Rs 100-150 crore will be raised in this drive. So, the rest Rs 400-500 crore will be borne by the state government. Today, a Rs 50 crore cheque will be given to the Assam Arogya Nidhi from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for vaccines,' he added.
Sarma said that lower primary school teachers, college teachers and the agricultural university have decided to donate one day's salary for this purpose and all this money will be deposited in the Assam Arogya Nidhi account.
Asked if Assam will also go global to procure vaccines like several other states, he said, 'I don't think it is anything except publicity. When the Central government is not getting vaccines, where will the states get it from?' Assam will focus on procuring the vaccines from Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute and Zydus Cadila, he added.
On the overall COVID-19 situation in Assam, the chief minister said, 'We are doing everything possible to control it and a united fight is going on against the pandemic.
'I will not claim that the situation has improved a lot, but we are seeing a ray of hope in the last three days with positivity rate coming down to little over six per cent.' He, however, said that now the issue of black fungus has cropped up and the government is working on that front too.
A COVID-19 recovered patient died of black fungus infection, the first such case reported in Assam, at a private hospital in Guwahati on Wednesday.
'Our Health Minister Keshab Mahanta will address a press meet tomorrow and he will announce the modalities to include it (black fungus) in the pandemic,' Sarma said.
As on Thursday, the total number of Assam's coronavirus cases is 3,47,001 and 2,433 people have died of the disease so far. PTI TR NN NN