Amid rising COVID-19 cases, India is prepping to open its vaccination drive to all adults. Registrations are slated to begin today at 4 pm, and the third phase of inoculation is slated to begin from May 1. But as the day draws nearer, there are several indications that it may not be quite as simple as hoped.
Under the third phase of the drive, vaccine manufacturers would supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the central government and would be free to supply the remaining 50% of doses to state governments and in the open market. Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had recently said that the Central government would continue giving vaccine doses from its 50% quota to the states and UTs for free. The balance 50%, he contended, was to grant flexibility for states.
"The 50 per cent quota, that is at Government of India's pricing, is for free distribution of vaccines and distribution of all of this will be done through the states only. Hence the allegation that Centre is getting it cheap and States are not is patently false," he had said.
But even as people across the country gear up to get vaccinated, many states and private hospitals are facing a bit of a conundrum. According to reports, several states have spoken about a possible delay because Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech have expressed an inability to supply doses immediately. Chhattisgarh contends that it has been told to expect a delay until July.
Similar situations have been reported by other states including Maharashtra and Rajasthan. On Tuesday, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had said that the state may receive its supply of 'Covishield' vaccine only after May 20.
An NDTV report from Wednesday highlighted the concerns of private hospitals in West Bengal, many of whom have been unable to procure fresh stock. While they have reportedly been asked to obtain doses directly from manufacturers and return to the government any remaining stocks after April 30, this is being hindered by the fact that manufacturers are not committing to an immediate supply. This is especially true of smaller and standalone hospitals.
"Some of our colleagues have informally contacted them and we were given to understand that there is a five-month waiting period for supplies, that they are committed to a lot of other countries, to government hospitals, and state governments," the publication quoted CK Birla Hospitals' COO, Dr Simmardeep Singh Gill as saying.