On Thursday, there was uproar on Twitter with the hashtag Maharashtra needs a Vaccine. As the Maharashtra government has announced that the COVID-19 vaccination drive will halt due to the lack of supplies of the vaccine. Hours after Maharashtra, Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh) and Andhra Pradesh revealed that they have sent an SOS alert to the Centre over COVID-19 vaccine scarcity, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan made it clear that there was no dearth of vaccine stock in the country. Whereas the scenario is such that the vaccine centres are shut and people are returning back without getting vaccinated.
Earlier the Central government had promised the states that the Centre will not allow any state to face vaccine scarcity. Maharashtra has 14 lakh vaccine doses that will last for three days. After that, vaccination may come to a standstill. The state needs a stock of 40 lakh vaccine doses per week. Andhra Pradesh has also said that it may run out of vaccine doses very soon.
Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India told one of the leading daily from India that, “The delay is solely dependent on India, and it has nothing to do with the Serum Institute of India. It is to do with the Indian government allowing more doses to the United Kingdom.”
The vaccine program in India has so far been limited to people over the age of 60 and those over the age of 45 with allergies and symptoms.
The Indian government is thought to be considering whether it needs to stockpile more vaccines to expand its program and whether to implement new localised lockdowns.
Meanwhile, Johnson a spokesperson for the Serum Institute of India said that the institute could not comment on the matter. The Indian government did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.
The number of new coronavirus cases in India hit a record daily high since the outbreak of the pandemic with over 1.15 lakh new infections being reported in a span of 24 hours, pushing the nationwide Covid-19 tally to 1,28,01,785, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday. The single-day rise in coronavirus cases breached the 1-lakh mark for the second time in three days.
A total of 1,66,177 deaths have been reported so far in the country including 56,330 from Maharashtra, 12,804 from Tamil Nadu, 12,696 from Karnataka, 11,113 from Delhi, 10,355 from West Bengal, 8,924 from Uttar Pradesh and 7,251 from Andhra Pradesh and 7,216 from Punjab.
As the cases of COVID-19 are rising, the vaccine drive has been affected by the shortages in several states and cities including Mumbai. Maharashtra alone accounts for some 55,000 infections. Other states, including Andhra Pradesh, is also running low on shots.
The steep jump in infections from early February, when the country reported around 11,000 daily infections, has forced states to reinstate movement curbs and other restrictions. Maharashtra has halted all non-essential services, ordered private companies to work from home, and shut malls and restaurants through April.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party is fighting five state elections, the unfolding health crisis may continue to dent his international image after India curbed vaccine exports this month as the second COVID wave mounted. The renewed restrictions are also spurring public anger at the government’s failure to get ahead of the virus despite a months-long lull.
For now, one month of supplies from India’s two approved vaccines only last 17 days at peak demand, without taking the existing inventories into account. Still, medical groups, public health experts and business leaders have called for the government to fully open up the inoculation drive to all age groups as the second wave continues to build. The nation currently only allows people over 45 years of age to get shots. For a country of India’s size and population density movement, curbs are likely to only offer a temporary respite.