(Eds: With additions) Mumbai, Apr 30 (PTI) Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday said that two COVID-19 vaccine makers in the country 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 per cent of vaccines from both the manufacturers.
Rest of the 50 per cent 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 is a question, he said.
'A question also arises whether the Union government will have to intervene and regulate the whole distribution of vaccines. There is no clarity on how and on what basis vaccines will be distributed to all the states,' Tope added.
The SII has told the state government that it could supply up to 14-15 lakh (Covishield) vaccines in May, whileBharat Biotech's supply would be around four lakh, the minister said.
'We would get around 18 lakh vaccines. If we limit the number of centres for vaccine distribution, we can maintain consistency in COVID-19 inoculation,' he said.
On the 18-44 age group vaccination drive, Tope said, 'Maharashtra CM genuinely feels that the state can start the vaccination drive from May 1.' May 1 is also the state foundation day, hence he is inclined to start this drive from that day, he said, adding, 'But we need to maintain consistency in the drive.' 'There are 4,200 inoculation centres in the state, including some private ones. If the Centre asks us not to carry out vaccination at private hospitals, then we will abide by that order as it is a national programme (for 18-44 age group). Whatever instructions are issued, we will have to implement,' he said.
On a question how the state plans to carry out vaccination of people above 45 years of age, including those who have taken first dose in private hospitals, he said, 'If someone has taken the first dose at a private centre, it is necessary for that person to take the second jab as well. That person can take the jab either at a private or a government- run centre.' Tope said that people should visit the vaccination centres after taking prior appointment. 'It will avoid crowding and everyone will get a dose,' he added.
Every state is reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases, which means there will be more demand for vaccines, he said, adding that the central government needs to come up with some policy so that every state gets an equal share of doses. PTI ND NP NP