Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra, others raise COVID vaccine shortage; May miss launch date for inoculation of 18+

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New Delhi/Punjab/Gujarat, Apr 29 (PTI) With less than 48 hours to go for the third phase of COVID-19 vaccination drive for all adults in the country, several states, including Punjab, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh on Thursday said they do not have sufficient doses of vaccine for the inoculation of those in the 18-44 age group, and indicated that they may miss the May 1 launch date of the drive.

The Health Minister of Delhi, one of the worst COVID-hit cities in the country, said the city 'does not have vaccines' for the third phase and purchase orders have been placed with the manufacturers. Later, officials said Delhi will procure 67 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine from Serum Institute and the first tranche of three lakh doses will be delivered by May 3.

Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh are among the states which have already raised the issue of vaccine shortage even for the ongoing inoculation drive for those above 45 years of age.

However, denying that there was any shortage of vaccine, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday said more than 1 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses are still available with states and UTs and they will receive over 20 lakh more doses within the next 3 days.

The ministry also said the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country was over 15 crore so far.

As per reports, Serum Institute's current manufacturing capacity is 6-7 crore doses per month while Bharat Biotech made around 2 crore doses in April as against 1.5 crore doses in March.

India is facing a debilitating surge in coronavirus cases and has been recording more than 3.5 lakh fresh COVID cases on a daily basis for the past few days. On Thursday, the country registered nearly 3.8 lakh new coronavirus infections, pushing the total tally of COVID-19 cases to over 1.83 crore, while active cases crossed the 30-lakh mark.

 Claiming that shortage of COVID-19 jabs may disrupt plans to immunize all adults from 1 May, several states, including Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana have said the process to vaccinate people in 18-44 age group will begin once they get substantial number of vaccines from pharmaceutical companies.

Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the vaccination drive for all above 18 years in the state may get delayed as there were not enough doses of the COVID vaccine.

'We are not getting adequate doses of vaccines. That is why we are facing problems. We have staff and required infrastructure for vaccination,” Sidhu told reporters.

Asked whether the state health authorities will be able to start the vaccination drive for the 18 plus age group from May 1, the minister said, 'I feel that we may not start by that time.' Asserting that the state government has made all the necessary arrangements for giving vaccines to those over 18 years free of cost, a statement from the Gujarat government said,'the vaccination process will start once the state receives substantial numbers of vaccine doses from pharma companies.' Meanwhile, in Mumbai, a civic official said vaccination against COVID-19 in the city will have to be suspended for the next two days if enough fresh stock is not provided.

The city is witnessing long queues of those above 45 years of age at vaccination centres, and a senior official indicated that the drive for the 18-44 age group may not start on May 1 due to the shortage of doses.

'We were told on Wednesday night that we would get around 75,000 vials of vaccine. With such a low supply, the BMC opened only some vaccination centres while others were kept closed,' said Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

A senior official of Telangana health department said though the state government is in touch with vaccine manufacturers, there is no certainty on when the stocks would be available for the mass vaccination. 'We are in touch with the manufacturers also. We are in search of the vaccine. We require around four crore doses,' Telangana Public Health Director G Srinivasa Rao told PTI.

According to a senior official in Andhra Pradesh government, inoculation may not start on May 1 in the state as planned due to delay in procurement of vaccine from manufacturers.

The state government has already written to the manufacturers for vaccine supplies and yet to get confirmation from them, the official added.

An official release from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy's office said as per the availability of stocks, the complete vaccination process for the age group (18 to 44 years) in the country will not be completed until January next year. PTI