In an unsavoury sequel to the ongoing Centre-Maharashtra spat, beneficiaries were turned away from 26 Covid vaccine centres, which had to shut down on Thursday for want of sufficient stock.
Anxious citizens, who swarmed the designated centres fearing the worst, were asked to come back on Friday. In another development, which suggests there won't be an early end to the stalemate, the BMC has said that 25 private hospitals too would be unable to administer vaccines because of the ongoing shortage.
This has not only impacted the vaccination drive but will also dampen the enthusiasm of senior citizens who had been turning up in large numbers to get inoculated in recent weeks. Officials said that if the vaccine supply issues persist, then from Friday the drive would come to a grinding halt and most beneficiaries would be unable to avail of the second dose, so crucial to the vaccine regimen.
The closure of these centres came two days after Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said there was a shortage of vaccines and that the civic body is in touch with the Centre for additional doses. Some stock was expected to arrive on Thursday night or on Friday morning but whether it will mitigate the shortage and to what extent is anybody's guess.
Meanwhile, several civic-run and private hospitals in the city have put up boards outside their premises, saying due to the unavailability of vaccines, there can be no vaccination.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani has confirmed the development, saying the BMC had less than a lakh doses in stock, which could have lasted for one day and there was a possibility that centres would have to be closed as most of them did not have adequate stock. “Yes, 26 of the 120 vaccination centres in Mumbai had run out. Stocks at another 20 centres were expected to dry up by Thursday, and at 25 others by Friday, paralysing the vaccination drive,” he said.
Officials from the state government said there was an overall shortage in the vaccine supply and the Centre had not estimated the daily consumption to rise so fast.
Till March 21, India had sent six crore vaccine doses to 76 countries, while using 4.5 crores domestically. However, in the 16 days since, the country’s immunisation count has touched 8.7 crores.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope told the media that the state had the maximum number of active patients - around 4.5 lakh as on date, while its total caseload had crossed the 30-lakh mark and the Centre has only allocated another 7.40 lakh doses.
“Maharashtra is a big state, geographically and in terms of population...the Centre should compare Maharashtra with other states in terms of number of patients, tests, active patients. We hardly have nine lakh doses left, which would last one day or one-and-a-half days,” he said, adding, “several vaccination centres in Satara, Sangli and Panvel have been shut due to the shortage”.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner Kiran Dighavkar, G North ward, said the Mahim vaccine centre had stopped administering the vaccine due to the shortage of stock and had asked them to return later in the afternoon on Thursday. “We have two centres, which include Dharavi and Mahim, of which the Mahim centre ran out of stock and was closed. However, as per my information, the civic body is sending more,” he said.
Mayor Kishori Pednekar said that the ongoing vaccination drive in Mumbai would come to a halt from Friday as the stock of vaccine doses in the city is about to be exhausted. “The vaccination drive in the city will definitely come to a halt from Friday. Only if the city gets supply (of vaccines) can the drive continue. The existing stock of vaccine doses could last only till today (Thursday) evening and Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope too has declared this,” she added.
Pednekar further said it was the first time that Maharashtra was going through this ‘worst situation’ and she held the Union government responsible for it. “Because of this shortage of vaccines, it will be difficult for the authorities to administer the second dose of vaccines to those people who have already received the first dose so far,” she added.
As per sources, vaccination were stalled at some places – the Mahim vaccine centre and at Holy Family, Kokilaben, Fortis (Mulund) and Sarvodaya hospitals. Meanwhile, news of the vaccine shortage in Mumbai spurred long lines at the BKC Jumbo Centre. “We had visited the Mahim centre but were turned away, being told the vaccine was out of stock. I then spoke to a friend who had received a dose at the BKC Jumbo Centre on Thursday. He asked me to visit the BKC, saying there was no shortage there,” said Rajesh Chavan, a Mahim resident.
Civic officials said many private vaccination centres too have expressed their inability to vaccinate, citing the unavailability of vaccines. So far, they had been vaccinating over 50,000 people daily. On Tuesday, this number had risen to 1,50,000. “While there may be overall supplies at the state level, individual centres may run out of stock on account of how the state manages their replenishment,” said an official.
Anoop Lawrence, General Manager, Global Hospital in Parel, said with the rising concern of vaccine shortage, the BMC is rationing doses to make sure that all vaccination centres in Mumbai remain functional. “We are administering 150 doses a day. We have been assured by the BMC that we will get more vials in the coming few days. For the last two days, we are only taking registered patients. We don’t want a situation where registered patients don’t get vaccinated,” he said.
Till April 7, over 15.52 lakh vaccine doses had been administered to beneficiaries, including essential services staff and frontline workers in the city. Of these, more than 1.72 lakh people have received their second dose.