Smoke signals of trouble are visible from different parts of the country, in the increasing Covid-19 cases, reduced pace of vaccination and the shortfall in vaccine supplies. This, even as cases of the Zika virus gets reported from Kerala, and the SARS-CoV-2 Kappa variant is reported in Uttar Pradesh.

Expressing concern that more than half the country’s daily Covid cases were from Kerala and Maharashtra, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary with the Health Ministry, said, “Of the total daily Covid cases, 21 per cent are from Maharashtra and 32 per cent from Kerala. This is a cause of concern that in the last three days cases have increased in Maharashtra. Similarly, in Kerala the cases had plunged to 8,000 on July 3 but post that there is an increase to 14,000-15,000 on a daily basis.” The Centre, he said, was coordinating with the two States on implementing containment measures.


Zika: Team for Kerala

On Zika, he added, “A six-member team comprising public health experts, and vector-borne disease experts from AIIMS has been directed to reach there and coordinate with the Kerala government.”

Pointing out that 80 percent of new Covid cases were being reported from 90 districts in 15 States/UTs, Lav Agarwalsaid this called for a focussed attention in these areas. And, worryingly, 66 districts across 17 States/ UTs have registered a Covid-19 positivity rate of more than 10 percent in the week ending July 8.

Vaccination slows

India reported 43,393 Covid cases in the 24 hours ended Friday morning with 911 deaths. The concerns over rising cases, including an impending third wave, rise even as the country’s pace of vaccination hovers at a low 29.07 lakh jabs a day, just a third of the. of one crore shots daily. “Out-of-stock” Mumbai halted vaccination as did Gujarat on Friday, with zero doses administered in three days.

JIT approach

Responding to a query on the shortages reported by States, Lav Agarwal said, “We all need to understand and appreciate the challenge the way supplies and production have been enhanced by regular hand-holding with the manufacturer in the last six months. We are able to come from 2 lakh to 40 lakh vaccines because we followed the manufacturers to ensure that the production gets increased. This whole process of logistics of vaccine management is also being done in a just-in-time approach”

Gujarat government sources said vaccine supplies for the June 28-July 4 week was only 18 lakh doses (including Covaxin and Covishield) against 28 lakh doses in the previous week. Many Maharashtra, cities and towns continued to wait for their supply of vaccine. The vaccination drive was halted in Mumbai by both government and private centres. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said it would inform citizens on resumption depending on the availability of vaccines.

Kerala, too, said it faced a scarcity of vaccines. “We are giving more than 2.5 lakh doses a day. The Centre should provide more vaccines to the State," an official said.

Tamil Nadu’s vaccination numbers swung wildly the last week falling to a low of 28,270 vaccinations on July 7, compared to a high of 1.37 lakh just three days earlier, more due to non-availability of vaccines than hesitancy, a senior official said. “We are administering the vaccines as and when we get them from the Centre,” he said, adding there was barely any stock available with the State.

Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said the Centre had assured 15 lakh supplies by July 12

Procurement formula

Private hospital representatives pointed out that the Centre’s new procurement formula for them was also causing the squeeze in supplies. There is a cap on how much they can source from the State. Serum Institute was on track with supplies, producing over 90 million doses a month, a source said, adding that Bharat Biotech was reportedly behind schedule.

On concerns whether adequate supplies of both doses (involving different components) of Russia’s SuptniK V vaccine were available in India, Dr Reddy's Laboratories (the brand custodian of Sputnik V in India) said: ``Our commitment is to ensure supplies of Component 2 to all hospitals to which we have supplied Component 1 in equal quantity and on time.''

Hari Prasad, President, Apollo Hospital Group, said they were not administering the first dose unless the second was assured. On the availability of the other vaccines, he said, ``Covishield and Covaxin supplies are better as both are manufactured in India and have been available for a longer time than Sputnik.''

Variant worries

The Lambda variant, first detected in Peru, has not been reported in India, said VK Paul, Member-Health, NITI Aayog. On the Kappa variant, Paul said that it was similar to the Delta and of less intensity. “While the Kappa variant is B 1.167.1, the Delta variant is B 1.167.2. So, the Delta variant is similar to the Kappa variant. This variant has been overwhelmed by the Delta variant. But we are watchful,” Paul added.