India’s third ‘liberalized’ COVID vaccination drive scheduled for May 1 is set to kick off in fits and starts. But several states, including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Delhi, have deferred the COVID-19 vaccination drive for people aged 18-44.
Three factors are apparently responsible: a) increasing number of states – BJP-ruled states included – don’t have the stocks to administer vaccines to those aged 18 years and up to 44 years. The states say they are already pressed for the second dose for those above 45 years; b) scheduling of shots is increasingly becoming impossible for the 18-44 age group; c) vaccine manufacturers aren’t in a position to provide extra millions of doses needed for the new age group.
On the other hand, over 96 lakh people have registered on CoWin portal for vaccination till 10.15pm on Thursday (April 29).
Media reports quoting National Health Authority CEO Ram Sewak Sharma said that the objective behind opening registration is that the platform is up and running. Whichever state is ready can go ahead, instead of waiting for all states to begin at once.
Here’s what many states have said:
Madhya Pradesh (BJP-ruled): Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said in a video message on April 29 that his state would not start the vaccination for 18-45 age group on May 1, but continue with vaccinating people over 45 years.
“On contacting the manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin vaccines, we learnt they are unable to give us doses for those above 18 years of age on May 1. So the drive covering the young people won’t start on May 1.”
Chouhan said the state hoped to get the vaccine doses around May 3. “Keep patience and there is no need to panic,” he said, adding the state has already placed orders with Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech.
Kerala (LDF-ruled): Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on April 29 the state would give priority to those who are eligible for the second dose. However, the CM hasn’t made a statement yet on whether people in the age group of 18-44 will be allowed to take vaccines even as many struggled to book slots online.
“There is no need to rush to vaccination centres…The second dose of Covishield should be taken within 6-8 weeks and Covaxin within 4-6 weeks… The slot for the first dose will be allowed for online booking only after giving preference to those taking the second dose,” he said.
Delhi (AAP-ruled): Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday (April 30) appealed to people not to queue up for COVID vaccines as the Delhi hasn’t received vaccine supplies yet. “Don’t queue up for vaccines tomorrow (Saturday, May 1). As soon as vaccines arrive, we will let you know and then you can come for shots. We appeal to citizens not to crowd vaccine centres in the next few days,” Kejriwal said.
Health Minister Satyender Jain said the state hasn’t received the schedule from companies yet about when they would deliver the requested lot.
Gujarat (BJP-ruled): Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said in a video message that the state might not be able to open up vaccination for all over 18 plus due to non-supply of the requisite stock. The state has ordered 2.5 crore doses. He expected at least a part of the order would be made available within the first 15 days of May. “I hope we will receive vaccine doses and within 15 days we will start the vaccination process (of those aged above 18 years),” he said.
Karnataka (BJP-ruled): Health and Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar on Friday appealed to those in the age group of 18-44 to refrain from visiting hospitals for vaccination from May 1 as the state faced a shortage of vaccines.
“We have placed orders for one crore doses of vaccine. The manufacturers are yet to confirm when they will be able to deliver. Till we intimate you, please do not visit hospitals although you may have enrolled on the CoWin portal,” the minister said.
Private hospitals have expressed doubts about offering vaccines and Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said they will be given vaccines based on the availability.
Punjab (Congress-ruled): Health Secretary Husan Lal said the state was yet to finalise its strategy for the new age group as there was no confirmation on vaccine supply “We are yet to contact Bharat Biotech for Covaxin order as earlier their prices were on higher side, but they have now reduced it to Rs 400 per dose for states… so, we will consider it now,” said Lal.
Maharashtra (Maha Vikas Aghadi): Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the state would not begin mass vaccination with a small stock. Serum Institute has agreed to provide 3 lakh doses to Maharashtra, he said. “We should have at least 25-30 lakh doses to begin the next phase of vaccination,” he said.
“We have asked manufacturers to give us the schedule for delivery. The empowered committee will take a decision on when to start vaccination,” he said.
Tamil Nadu (AIADMK-ruled): Tamil Nadu health secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan on Friday said the state government would defer its rollout of the massive vaccination drive for the 18-44 years age group that is slated to begin from May 1.
“I wish to clarify that we are unsure when and how much out of the 1.5 crore doses of vaccine sought by Tamil Nadu will arrive,” he said, adding that the state has not yet received a reply from the Centre on its demand for vaccines.
Andhra Pradesh (YSR Congress-ruled): Unlike other states’ chief ministers, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy on Thursday (April 29) broke the silence over vaccine shortage and said the vaccination drive for people aged 18 to 45 is unlikely to begin before September. It will take four months to vaccinate them if and when the vaccination process starts.
He said the production capacity in the country is about seven crore vaccines per month (one crore of Covaxin and the rest Covishield), but to vaccinate 60 crore beneficiaries between 18-45 age group, the country would require 120 crore doses of vaccines.
Chhattisgarh (Congress), Jharkhand (JMM-led Grand Alliance) and Rajasthan (Congress) have already said they are unlikely to open up the vaccination programme from May 1.