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Vaccine supplies still a concern, as the pace of vaccination hovers at half-way mark

PT Jyothi Datta, TV Jayan Mumbai/Delhi | Updated on July 15, 2021

The government has revealed that they are supplying only half of what is required at about 45 lakh doses per day

As the Centre and States lob allegations of vaccine inventory “mismanagement” at each other, experts worry that the pace of vaccination hovers at the half-way mark of the required 90-odd lakh per day.

The government by its own projection of 13.5 crore doses to be supplied in July, has revealed that they are supplying half of what is required at about 45 lakh per day, noted virologist Shahid Jameel, told BusinessLine. “What we need is 9 to 10 million (90 lakh to 1 crore) doses per day for the rest of this year,” said Jameel, Director, Trivedi School of Biosciences, Ashoka University.

There is clearly a supply issue linked to how much has been ordered, the delivery schedule and whether companies were working to capacity, he said, pointing out that vaccine companies too needed time to make the vaccines once the requirement is communicated to them.

Industry insiders said that Serum Institute of India, makers of Covishield, has touched about 10 crore doses a month, while Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin reportedly is about 2.5-odd crore. Covaxin is not an easy vaccine to make, said Jameel, adding that its turnaround is four months for each batch.

Till date, nearly 39 crore vaccinations were carried out in the country. The share of Covishield in this was 34.16 crore, while that of Covaxin was 4.83 crore.

On the Centre’s statement Wednesday that some States and private vaccination centres were not picking up stocks or paying for it, Jameel said, the Centre could take them to task. “This is side-tracking the real issue of placing early purchase orders,” he said, adding that the Centre and States needed to talk and sort this out.

States seek more

In the three weeks of the Centre’s revised vaccination programme, States have been asking for more vaccine supplies tailored to their population profile.

A senior official in Kerala said the State, which is still facing the brunt of the second wave, requested for 90 lakh doses of vaccine for July. “But we have got only less than 14 lakh doses so far in this month,” the official said adding after much persuasion, the Centre has agreed to give an additional 5 lakh doses in next couple of days.

A senior health official in Punjab similarly said the supplies are very skewed. “We would be getting some supplies today which will last till the day after. But the next scheduled supply is on July 21. What would we do till then,” the official asked.

In Tamil Nadu, vaccination outpaces the supplies. For instance, last week about eight lakh vaccines arrived, and were administered in three days as opposed to over a week or a couple of months ago.

"As the vaccine hesitancy is slowly vanishing, we need to administer more shots so that we cover maximum persons at a short period of time. However, for this, we need more vaccines from the Centre," said a senior government official.

Gujarat government officials ruled out any shortage and its Chief Immunization Officer, Nayan Jani said, “We are getting regular supplies from the Centre - more than we received earlier. The supplies have increased, but now that the vaccination has been thrown open for all above 18, the population to be covered has suddenly gone up. So far, we have administered about 2.8 crore doses, whereas the targeted beneficiaries are about 4.7 crore in the State.”

However, Gujarat's overall pace of vaccination has slowed down from the initial week of new vaccination drive that started on June 21. In the first week June 21-27, average doses administered were about 4 lakh per day, which reduced to 2.75 in the following week ending July 4.

Complaining of a vaccine shortage, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that vaccines were not coming “as per schedule”. Against a request for 14 crore doses, the State was allotted 2.12 crore doses. In her letter to the Prime Minister, she called for 11.5 crore more dosages to “cover all eligible people”. Bengal has on an average been administering 300,000 doses per day; against a capacity of administering 10 lakh doses per day, the letter claimed.

Telangana reported a lack of Covaxin supplies, particularly in government vaccination centres. The State, which has administered 1.27 crore jabs so far, is witnessing a steady pace in the administration of doses. Covishield holds a share of over 80 per cent of all the doses administered so far in the State, with Covaxin contributing the remaining portion. SputnikV made it presence felt with a share of about 50,000 doses.

(with inputs from Raja Simhan & Narayanan V, Rutam Vora, Abhishek Law & K V Kurmanath)

Projected availability of Covid vaccines from August to December 2021.

Vaccine

Quantity receivable through all sources

Covishield

50 crore

Covaxin

40

Biological E subunit vaccine

30

Zydus Cadila DNA vaccine

5

Sputnik

10

Total

135

Source: Government’s affidavit

Published on July 15, 2021

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