Amidst the war of words over vaccine politicking between union health minister Harsh Vardhan and states chief ministers and health ministers, states even on Thursday continued to complain of vaccine shortage hampering the inoculation drive. Maharashtra health minister, Rajesh Tope on Thursday said that the state has only two days of stock of Covid-19 vaccines, after which it will officially run out of vaccine doses for the immunization drive. “Vaccination has stopped in districts like Satara, Sangli and Panvel. There are many more districts where it has stopped. We have two more days of stock,” he said.
India reported over 1,26,789 fresh cases in last 24 hours with 10 States –Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab amounting to 84.21% of the total.
While Maharashtra currently has the highest number of covid-19 cases in the country, Tope also accused the Centre of supplying a lesser number of vaccines to the state, claiming that states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana etc have been given more vaccines in comparison with population and Covid-19 cases, while the state “has been given 7.5 lakh vaccine dosages only”, in the latest allotment.
Meanwhile Centre on Thursday increased the vaccine limit to 17 lakhs, but Tope said, “Even this is less because we need 40 lakh vaccine doses a week and 17 lakh doses are not enough. We want 1.6 crore vaccine dosages per month and 40 lakh every week because we are vaccinating 6 lakh people every day.” Many vaccination centers in Maharashtra are being closed temporarily owing to the shortage of vaccines. On Wednesday, Maharashtra reported 59,907 new Covid-19 infections, its highest single-day spike, and 322 fatalities, taking its total tally to 3,173,261 and death toll to 56,652. The number of active cases also crossed the 500,000-mark with 501,559 active infections.
Similarly, Odisha Health Minister Naba Kishore Das too expressed concern that the state may have to stop the vaccination, if they don’t get replenishment in next two days. “Our 700 vaccination centres, out of the 1400, have already closed. Right now, we have 5.34 lakhs doses. We administer 2.5-lakh vaccines daily. So, our stock will last for 2 more days. We have written to Centre to send us a minimum of 25-lakh vaccines for 10 days so that we can vaccinate properly,” said Kishore Das.
In Andhra Pradesh where Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams has decided to suspend the issuance of Sarva Darshan tokens at Tirupati from April 12 after the spike, the state is expecting to run out of vaccine stock soon. “We have received 2 lakh doses today from Chennai central depot. There is a brief respite. But the stocks are still running low,” said a senior health official in Andhra Pradesh government.
Punjab, which is one of the states of “grave concern” in terms of cases and deaths due to covid-19, last week reached out to the centre regarding shortage of vaccines. “Last week, we told the centre that we will be running short of vaccines this week. However, the centre has provided us the vaccines, we still need more to vaccinate our population considering the rise in cases. We have also proposed the centre to start vaccinating all adults,” said a senior official in Punjab government.
Uttar Pradesh government which is also grappling with a rising burden of covid-19 and has imposed partial lockdown is expected to get more vaccines by the end of this week. “We would be getting vaccines on 10th of April and we have sufficient quantity up to that,” said Alok Kumar, secretary to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. However, some private hospitals functioning as covid vaccination centres have stopped vaccinations owing to short supply of vaccine. “We started covid-19 vaccinations since 1st March 2021. Since Monday, we don’t have the vaccines. We were immunising 200 persons but after the vaccine stock started exhausting, we could only vaccinate 50 persons. Currently we have stopped covid-19 vaccinations,’ said Dr Alok Gupta, director of Lyf hospital in Ghaziabad.
According to union health ministry, over 9.1 crores vaccines have been utilised, 2.4 crores vaccine doses are in stock and 1.9 crores are in the stock.
Harsh Vardhan attacked Maharashtra on its claim of shortage of vaccines tweeting the number of doses. “Hue & cry by certain States about partisanship by the Union Govt is just a farce, an attempt to hide their own incompetence. Maharashtra and Rajasthan are 2 of the top 3 States based on allocation of #COVID19Vaccine doses. Both are non-BJP governed States,” Harsh Vardhan tweeted.
“Let’s put an end to fear mongering now! #COVID19Vaccine doses: Total administered: 9 cr+ In stock/nearing delivery to states: 4.3 cr+ Where does question of shortages arise? We’re continuously monitoring & enhancing supply,” the health minister tweeted.
Meanwhile, Union minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar alleged on Thursday that five lakh doses of the Covid-19 vaccines were wasted in Maharashtra due to a lack of planning by the state government.
States are adopting stringent measures to control the pandemic such as lockdowns. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday announced a 60-hour weekend lockdown in the urban areas of the state in the wake of rising daily cases of Covid 19. The lockdown will be in effect from 6pm on Friday to 6am on Monday. Amid a spike in Covid-19 cases, marking a second wave in the state, the Tamil Nadu government on Thursday imposed new restrictions from April 10 to contain the spread of the infection. The State government has also urged all industries to vaccinate all workers aged above 45.
Over the last two weeks, Gujarat has also been reporting an unusually high number of Covid-19 cases. On Wednesday, the state reported 3,575 cases, its highest so far and almost double the infections it detected weeks earlier on March 20, when it reported 1,565 cases. Health experts in the state have observed that the second wave of Covid-19 has seen a rapid spread of the infection, and unlike before, entire families are being infected. Chhattisgarh government on Wednesday announced a complete lockdown in capital Raipur from April 9. The total lockdown in Raipur will come into effect from 6 pm on April 9 and will continue to remain till April 19. Only essential shops and service providers would be exempted.
Kalpana Pathak and Utpal Bhaskar contributed to this story