Hamstrung by a shortage of vaccine stock, the Maharashtra government is being forced to temporarily suspend the vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group. Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Tuesday that the government had decided to administer second doses to the 45-plus group with its remainder stock.
“There is a dearth of vaccines, hence we’re considering temporarily holding off vaccinations for the 18-44 age group. About 2.75 lakh vaccine doses are left for this age group that’ll now be used for the 45 years and above group. Administering the second dose is a priority,” said Tope.
“Around 35,000 doses of Covaxin are available for people above 45 years, but there are five lakh beneficiaries eligible for their second dose. For this, we are diverting stock to the 45-plus category,” Tope said. “Three lakh doses of Covaxin meant for the 18-44 age group will now be diverted to the 45-plus group. We are suspending vaccination for those in the 18+ age group that want Covaxin. Even in case of Covishield recipients, there are 16 lakh people due for their second shot,” he added.
The efficacy of the vaccine is largely affected if the second dose is not administered within the stipulated time. “To avoid such a health crisis, the state government has decided to divert three lakh vials of Covaxin purchased for the 18-44 age category for those above 45 years of age,” Tope said.
However, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said that the vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group would continue in the city on Wednesday, alongside the drive for the 45-plus.
Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health) Suresh Kakani said that vaccination for younger citizens would continue on Wednesday. “We haven’t received any official order to discontinue vaccinations for the 18-44 age group, so we will carry on with the drive for all the eligible age groups as planned, on Wednesday,” Kakani told the FPJ.
“The BMC is expected to receive fresh stocks of both Covaxin and Covishield by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, and this will definitely boost the drive in the city for the rest of the week,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tope said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has repeatedly announced that the state government is prepared to pay at one go for the procurement of 12 crore vaccines to be administered to six crore citizens in the 18-plus category. “However, the government needs assurance on the smooth and uninterrupted supply,”’ he noted.
Despite the shortage of vaccines, Maharashtra continues top the list of states for most vaccinations, having administered shots to 1,82,64,212 people, including those from the 18-44 age group, Tope informed. He noted that the state could vaccinate eight lakh people per day if it received additional supply of vaccines.
(With inputs from Pratip Acharya)