Fifty percent drop in vaccine doses

India May 05, 2021

On Wednesday, nearly 13 million people registered for Covid-19 vaccines, mostly between the ages of 18-44. However, they will have to wait till the end of May, or even longer to get vaccinated. On that same day, only 2.2 million people were vaccinated throughout the country, nearly 50% less than the highest single day record of 4.3 million vaccinations carried out on April 5.

The major obstacles faced by the Central and state governments in the vaccination drive are:

1) Shortage of vaccine doses

The Serum Institute Of India, which produces Covishield, is currently capable of producing 70 million doses a month. They have promised to increase the amount to 100 million by June. Covaxin, produced by Bharat Biotech, produces 10 million doses a month. They plan to increase production to 20 million by May and 60 million by July. The possibility of US sending AstraZeneca stocks or the number of Sputnik V stocks imported in May is unknown at the moment.

The number of doses produced by both these companies would be barely enough for the current vaccination drive of the 45 plus age group, which is the most at-risk group in this pandemic. 100 million people from this age group have received their first dose, and only 13 million people have received the second dose. In May and June, the remaining 87 million people will line up for the second jab. There are more than 450 million people aged above 45 in India..On an average, 3 million people got vaccinated daily in April. There’s a long way to go before this priority group gets fully vaccinated. This reduces the likelihood of people between the ages of 18-45 getting vaccinated anytime soon.

"We don’t understand why registrations have been opened by the Centre when the vaccine stocks are not available. This is not a first-come-first-serve model anyway, so there is no point registering when appointments are not available. People will get impatient," an official from Punjab said.

2) Large number of orders by state governments

From May 1, states will be required to source their vaccine doses directly from suppliers, and nearly 20 states have already placed their orders with the Serum Institute of India. If one assumes that each state has made an order of 15-20 million doses, the total amount of orders has already exceeded 350 million doses. A major reason behind this is the fact that Covishield is sold to state governments at a price of Rs 300, which is half the price of Covaxin, sold at Rs 600.

3) Exit of Private Vaccination Centres

Due to the Serum Institute of India's obligation to the state governments, they will not be able to provide vaccine doses to private hospitals. The Centre will not provide doses either, and also won't be allowed to charge Rs 250 for vaccinating people above the age of 45. This could mean that private vaccination centres may stop functioning from May 1 onwards. This increases the pressure on government vaccination sites.

4) Lockdowns in most states

The lockdowns imposed in various states have caused a large drop in the daily number of vaccinations as people are afraid to step out of their homes. State Governments are blaming the Centre for the fall in vaccination numbers as they are not providing them with enough doses. The Centre, however, has maintained that they have 11 million doses in stock with 2 million more on the way.

There is a lot of uncertainty about how the rest of the vaccination drive will be carried out amid the rising number of cases. It remains to be seen how the Central and state governments will deal with these problems.

This article has been written by Sherwyn Fernandes for The Paradigm

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