Covid-19 vaccine demand pressure builds up ahead of ‘Tika Utsav’

Our Bureau Ahmedabad | Updated on April 10, 2021

File photo   -  PTI

Survey by LocalCircles showed 77 per cent respondents willing to take the jab now, as against 38 per cent in January

Increased readiness for the jab, local distribution hick-ups and supply issues at the vaccine makers' end are seen causing a shortage-like situation for Covid-19 vaccines in the country, experts noted.

What adds to the demand pressure is the Centre's ambitious four-day 'Tika Utsav' (Vaccination Festival), which kicks-off on April 11.

According to its latest survey, community social media network LocalCircles noted that nearly a fifth of the respondents had someone in their social network who had failed to get a vaccine in the first 10 days of April.

The survey was conducted to gauge if people who had gone for vaccination, had in reality experienced this shortage, as claimed by some. "The survey received more than 24,000 responses from citizens in 255 districts. The aggregate response indicated that 18 per cent of citizens had someone in their social network who could not get a vaccine dose when they went for vaccination in the first 10 days of April," LocalCircles said in its survey findings.

It further noted that besides several reasons including sub-optimal local distribution or genuine shortages at some locations, the severe second wave of Covid infections had prompted more people to opt for vaccinations.

Vaccine hesitancy on the decline

It also noted that 77 per cent of the citizens in the LocalCircles' survey expressed interest in taking the jab in April, as against 38 per cent in January, when the vaccination drive started. "This decline in vaccine hesitancy could also be contributing to the demand-supply mismatch," it said.

India has already inoculated over 10 crore doses of the vaccine (either Covishield or Covaxin) since the beginning of the vaccination drive on January 16, 2021.

However, experts noted that the uproar over vaccine shortages is blown out of proportion. "We need to take into account multiple aspects, including a sudden increase in demand in the domestic market, local logistics issues that individual states need to fix, and there could be some factors responsible for supply issues from the manufacturers' side," said D.K. Mangal, Dean-Research and Advisor to the S D Gupta School of Public Health, IIHMR University- Jaipur.

Mangal said more than the vaccinations, the basic strategy of test, trace and treat would be more effective in containing the current surge in infections.

"Vaccination is important. But inoculating a sizeable population i.e. 60-70 per cent could take months. So at this moment, when infections are rising at a faster pace, it is imperative to utilise resources to contain the spread, and to treat the infected. We can't afford to dilute our efforts on these two fronts," added Mangal.

For the sustained demand pressure, LocalCircles underlined that the Centre and States must identify the root cause of whether it is a local distribution issue or if there is a genuine shortage in certain locations.

Serum Institute of India (SII) currently produces 2 million doses of Covidshield a day, while Bharat Biotech makes 0.3 million doses of Covaxin per day. "If India continues to vaccinate 3 million people a day and if these two providers are unable to scale their production, India will need to import vaccines from other countries," it said.

The survey also showed that 56 per cent of the respondents were in favour of getting Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J in India to conduct trials and make the vaccine available here by June.

Published on April 10, 2021

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