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States unsure of Covid-19 vaccination Phase 3 as uncertainty over supply continues

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date
States unsure of Covid-19 vaccination Phase 3 as uncertainty over supply continues

New Delhi: India is two days far from launching its third phase of vaccination, which will inoculate all falling under 18 to 45 years bracket, however,  a number of states are unsure if they could carry out the process. As per them the time is running out and the burden of logistics and confusion over vaccine procurement have put a cloud of uncertainty over the inoculation drive.

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To successfully carryout the universal inoculation drive, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday requisitioned 12 crore vaccine doses from Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech for the next six months and sought information about a monthly supply from both companies.

While Maharashtra health secretary Pradeep Vyas wrote a letter addressed to the heads of both pharmas wanting to know the procurement price and the availability of vaccines before starting the next phase, state health minister Rajesh Tope said they had not received any response as yet to the letter from either company.

Meanwhile, Goa government also seems to be in a state of helplessness to launch the Phase 3, as it is yet to get vaccine stock. The directorate of health services has placed orders with SII, but they have not got a commitment for the supply yet. The vaccination of a new category of people would be subject to receiving the supply of vaccines, said Dr Jose D’Sa, director of the directorate of health services.

“As per information from SII, they are not in position to supply immediately, as it has to fulfill requests placed by the government of India. Only then they will supply us, and it may take time,” said D’sa.

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While, the West Bengal government has decided to procure vaccine doses on behalf of private hospitals to ensure the vaccination drive does not come to an abrupt halt next month. But given the logistics issues of orders being placed and deliveries taking place in the few days that remain this month, there is cloud over the drive at private Covid vaccination centres (CVCs) from May 1.

The state government on Monday had told private hospitals to directly buy their own stock from the manufacturers after April. But on Tuesday, private hospitals prevailed on the government to do the bulk procurement on their behalf, arguing that a single order would be streamlined rather than individual private CVCs placing fragmented orders.

With private hospitals required to return the unused vaccines on April 30, there will be no more dose left with private CVCs till the state gets fresh ones from manufacturers that will come at a higher price.

“Forget about the Phase-3 rollout, we will not have any dose left for people whose second doses are due from May 1. The inoculation drive is going to come to a halt in the private sector if the state does not come to our rescue,” said CEO of a private hospital in Kolkata.

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Whereas, in Karnataka, private hospitals, which were receiving their quota of Covid vaccine from the Centre until now, may have to buy it directly from manufacturers from May 1. The government is yet to issue any order to this effect.

BBMP chief commissioner Guarav Gupta told media that private hospitals will soon get a communication in this regard and added that a meeting may be convened if required.

Multiple hospitals told media that they have no clarity from the state government yet about the expanded vaccination from May 1 and no procurement process has started.

Timely supply of doses remained a concern for Jharkhand too as there are approximately 1.57 crore adults in the state, between 18-45 years, who are eligible to take the jabs in the upcoming phase. “As on Monday evening, we had 3.22 lakh doses of Covaxin and 2.75 lakh doses of Covishield. But it has to be administered only to the beneficiaries of the first two phases,” a health department official said.

Health officials said the state has placed orders for 50 lakh doses with the Centre for existing phases. That apart, the government has also placed orders for 25 lakh doses for direct purchase from the manufacturers. “I do not know when the vaccines will come. If you ask whether we will start the drive (third phase) from May 1, I do not know,” said Jharkhand health secretary Arun Kumar Singh.

The Telangana government has set itself a target of vaccinating 1.45 crore people between the ages of 18 and 44 in just three months. It has asked Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech to allocate a major slot of its indigenously developed vaccine, ‘Covaxin’, to Telangana.

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On Tuesday, Chief secretary Somesh Kumar met Bharat Biotech’s chairman & managing director Dr Krishna Ella to ensure enough stocks are available.

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