COVID-19 in Maharashtra: State faces vaccine shortage; Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan denies
Photo: BL SONI

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday sent out an SOS to the Centre, seeking immediate supply of Covid vaccines, as its current stock would only suffice for three days. Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope, told Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan over a video conference that the ongoing vaccination drive would come to a halt after three days, unless the Centre supplied more vaccines. He further stated that already some vaccination centres in the state had to down shutters as they had run out of stock.

“We have only three days’ worth of vaccine in stock. We have requested the Centre for additional stock. This is urgent and necessary, given the high number of cases being reported every day. Mumbai too has stocks only for the next three days,” Tope said.

“Today (Wednesday), 14 lakh doses are available, which means there is only three days' stock. Every week, we need 40 lakh doses, that is if we vaccinate five lakh people every day."

“Many districts will run out today or tomorrow. The Centre is aware of the situation and (we) have also communicated in writing,” Maharashtra's Principal Secretary (Health) Pradeep Vyas said.

However, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan lashed out at what he considered the state government’s attempts to distract attention from its own failures and to spread panic among the people. “Maharashtra Government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic and the inability of the state government to act responsibly is beyond comprehension. To spread panic among the people is to compound the folly further. Allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless,” he claimed.

Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar too jumped in, slamming the state government, saying that it should not play politics over vaccination. “The total number of Covid vaccines supplied to the state till date is 1,06,19,190; consumption is 90,53,523 (of which 6 per cent is wastage over 5 lakh), number of vaccines in pipeline -7,43,280 and doses available are nearly 23 lakh.

In a letter to PM Modi, CM Uddhav Thackeray had, on Monday, had demanded an additional 1.5 crore doses so that Maharashtra could vaccinate all those above the age of 45 in six districts, including Mumbai, within three weeks.

Referring to the new Covid-19 strain, Tope said, “We suspect that there is a new strain that is affecting people in a shorter duration of time. Samples have been sent to National Centre for Disease Control to ascertain this.”

Tope further said that there was a surge in oxygen demand in the wake of rising cases in the state. He urged the Centre to instruct the neighbouring states, where demand was less, to supply oxygen to Maharashtra to meet its rising need. He noted that the daily oxygen production in the state was 1,200 metric tonnes, of which 80 per cent had now been earmarked for medical purposes. The government planned to divert the entire supply for medical use if the demand continued to surge as cases rose.

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