The next phase of India's vaccination drive is set to begin from May 1, 2021, as the country plans to vaccinate all adults above 18 years old. However, due to shortage of vaccines, several states including the southern ones, have said they won't be able to kick off the drive.
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Puducherry said they did not have adequate stocks of vaccines to meet the expected rush of immunity seekers, even as the country's Covid graph, including in southern states, has been mercilessly on the upward trend.
Tamil Nadu defers roll out
Due to the uncertainty over the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, the Tamil Nadu government on Friday deferered its rollout of the massive vaccination drive for the 18-44 years age group on May 1 as originally planned.
Explaining the predicament, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said, "instead of waiting till tomorrow (and disappoint people), I wish to clarify (now) that we are unsure when and how much out of 1.5 crore doses of vaccine sought by Tamil Nadu, will arrive."
Asked if the vaccination will not happen tomorrow, the secretary shot back, "we don't know if we will get (vaccines) tomorrow and how much." The state government has not yet received a reply from the Centre on the demand for vaccines.
Assuming the Central government would give its nod, the quantum that would be sanctioned to Tamil Nadu is yet to be known, he told reporters.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan on vaccination for all adults
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state can't decide anything on its own when there is a shortage.
"It has become difficult to decide on vaccination," he said, apparently hinting the inoculation drive may not take off on Saturday.
The Kerala government had on Wednesday decided to procure one crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines, including 70 lakh Covishield jabs, for the third phase of vaccination slated on Saturday.
Karnataka says too ''vaccination drive will be delayed''
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said the inoculation drive for people in the 18 years plus group will be delayed as the vaccine has not been supplied yet.
"Our Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar has said clearly that the vaccine has not been supplied yet. We will vaccinate people once it arrives," he told reporters. He dismissed charges that it was a failure on the part of the government for not getting the vaccine beforehand. Earlier, Sudhakar said the vaccination drive on Saturday will not start as planned.
"It is not possible for us to start vaccinating people from 18 years to 45 years from tomorrow. Please don't take it otherwise. The moment we get official information, we will let you know," Sudhakar told reporters.
"We have made orders to Serum Institute in Pune for over one crore doses but the official news is that they are still not prepared to give it to us from tomorrow as scheduled," the Minister added.
He asked people who have enrolled themselves on the Cowin portal for inoculation to refrain from going to vaccination centres on May 1, adding the government will later intimate them upon confirmation of arrival of doses.
Andhra, Telangana also express inability to implement third phase
Andhra Pradesh too expressed its inability to implement the third phase of inoculation due to shortage of vaccine doses. Anil Kumar Singhal, principal secretary (medical and health), said the mass vaccination programme will not begin in the state due to the said issue. The state needs four crore vaccines to vaccinate two crore people (two doses) in the 18-44 years age group.
The Telangana government had said on Thursday that it may not be able to start the vaccination drive from Saturday as it is hit by shortage of vaccines.
A senior official of Telangana health department said though the state government is in touch with the vaccine manufacturers, there is no certainty on when the stocks would be available for the mass vaccination.
"There are no possibilities (of vaccination)... we are in touch with manufacturers also," Telangana Public Health Director G Srinivasa Rao had told PTI. "We are in search of the vaccine. We require around four crore doses," he said.
He said the vaccine manufacturers also could not assure the state government as to when they will be able to supply stocks.
In the union territory Puducherry, the plan to vaccinate those in the said age group, scheduled for May 1, has been shelved for now for want of vaccines.
A spokesman of the Department of Health and Family Welfare Services here told PTI that the consignment of vaccines needed for the programme has not arrived and hencethe programme is delayed.
Some states to kick off vaccination drive for all adults above 18, says Centre
Amid many states expressing their inability to start COVID-19 vaccination of those between 18 and 44 years from May 1 citing paucity of doses, the Centre on Friday said some states, which have already coordinated with manufacturers, will kick off the drive on the designated date.
It stressed that any new exercise takes time to pick up pace and this phase three of the vaccination drive too will stabilise over time.
Several states, including Delhi, Odisha, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab said they do not have adequate doses of vaccine to start vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group.
Some states announce vaccination drive phase 3 in select districts
Some states announced phase three of the immunisation drive in selected districts, while some announced vaccination for different age groups also such as those above 35 years.
At a press conference, Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said the states are coordinating with vaccine manufacturers for procuring the doses and the Centre is providing the required support.
"Vaccination will be launched tomorrow in some states which have already coordinated with manufacturers. Any new exercises or process takes time to pick up pace and gradually more centres will be increased. The programme will stabilise in some time," he said.
This is a paid programme unless the state governments subsidise it, Agarwal said, adding free vaccination of priority groups by the Government of India will continue.
He also said so far over 15 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given for free by the Centre in coordination with states.
To queries on whether private hospitals will be able to vaccinate those aged above 45 years, he said all priority groups such as the healthcare and frontline workers and citizens above 45 years shall continue to be eligible for vaccination free of cost from government Covid Vaccination Centres (CVCs).
As provided in the Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy document, all priority groups such as healthcare workers, frontline workers and citizens aged 45 years and above shall continue to be eligible for vaccination for free from government CVCs and on payment from private CVCs.
Anti-coronavirus vaccines price to be displaced on CoWIN app
From May 1, the types of anti-coronavirus vaccines and their prices will be displayed on the CoWIN portal for the citizens to make an informed choice at the time of booking an appointment at a private vaccination centre, according to the Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy document.
Vaccine manufacturers would make an advance declaration of the price for 50 per cent supply that would be available to state governments in the open market before May 1. Based on this price, states, private hospitals, industrial establishments may procure vaccine doses from manufacturers.
Private hospitals would have to procure their supplies of COVID-19 vaccine exclusively from the 50 per cent supply earmarked, other than the Government of India channel.
(With PTI inputs)