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Sorry for interruption: States to 18+ jab seekers

Thursday, 13 May 2021 | Archana Jyoti | New Delhi

States divert vaccine stock for those above 45+ for their second dose; drive for 18+ hit hard

Sorry for interruption” is what the States are telling those in the 18 to 44 age group, as authorities have diverted vaccine stock to those above 45 years of age for a second dose of the jab, as directed by the Centre.

In fact, those who are 45 years plus and have not taken even the first shot of the jab till now, will also have to wait more for their turn.

States such as Maharashtra, Delhi, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana have already halted the vaccination for adult, the drive for which was kicked off with much fanfare from May 1.

To meet the need, some States have also floated the global tenders which are likely to take its own time. In fact, even the BJP-ruled States like Uttarakhand have also decided to import the vaccine. Officials from Uttarakhand on Wednesday said they will be importing 20 lakh doses of Sputnik vaccine over the next two months.

Of total 20.33 crore registration under Co-Win, a Government portal, at least 6.88 crore belong to the 18-44 age bracket and the rest 13.44 crore are from 45 plus years. A total of 3.80 crore people are waiting for a second dose.

UP Chief Secretary Om Prakash said the State Government is in talks with the Centre as vaccine doses received so far are not adequate. “We will get 8 lakh doses this month and 9 lakh doses next on the condition that the second dose is administered to people who have already got the first dose,” he said.

Toeing similar lines, in view of the massive shortage of vaccines in Maharashtra, the State Task Force has advised the State Government to suspend the drive for 18-44 years till June 1, by which time more doses are expected to be available.

The Maharashtra Government has decided to divert nearly 2.75 lakh Covaxin doses that were purchased for the 18-44 group to complete the second doses for the older group. This move will “slow down” the vaccination

drive for the 18-44 age-group, admitted Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope.

In Delhi, there have been reports of a string of hospitals shutting down the inoculation drive due to the vaccine shortage. Some hospitals have already done so while a few others are managing with the available stock, but have the capacity to vaccinate more people. Telangana, in view of the shortage, has already halted registrations for the first dose, while intensifying the drive for the second dose.

There are over 5 lakh beneficiaries from the 45+ category who are due for their second dose of Covaxin, and the State only has 35,000 Covaxin doses. Another 16 lakh people who took the first dose of Covishield are due for their second dose. The States have been blaming the Centre for poor planning of vaccine policy.

When they had a shortage of vaccine, they should not have opened up the drive for those in the age group of 18 plus, medical health experts too rued. In fact, they said even many health care worker and frontline workers who were given priority for inoculation in phase 1 and phase 2 are yet to be get mandatory second dose (See box)

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan during the review meeting with the States on Wednesday maintained that while 13.66 crore people have been administered the first dose, the second dose has been administered to only 3.86 crore.

“Hence it is very important that we first focus more on second dose vaccinations. States should not lose sight of those who are to get the second dose of Covid vaccine:  70 per cent at minimum ought to be allocated to meet the requirement of second dose, while 30 per cent ought to be reserved for the first dose.” However, the States have decided to focus on the second dose category in the wake of poor vaccine supply.

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