Q. What is the news?
- India’ vaccination drive appears to be struggling. Half a dozen states are reporting a shortage of doses even as the central government insists that there's enough in stock.
Q. What is the present situation ?
Maharashtra : Reports of vaccine shortage came from various states majorly from Maharashtra. In the western state of Maharashtra, which is reporting more than half of India's new infections, the inoculation programme appears to be grinding to a halt. The local government says its current stock of 1.5 million doses will last only for three days. Vaccination centres have been shut in the state capital, Mumbai, and parts of Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara districts. At present, Maharashtra has very few stocks and some centers are closed.
Punjab : Punjab, which is one of the states of “grave concern" in terms of cases and deaths due to covid-19, reached out to the centre regarding shortage of vaccines.
Uttar Pradesh : Uttar Pradesh Government which is also grappling with a rising burden of covid-19 and has imposed partial lockdown is expected to get more vaccines by the end of this week. Some private hospitals functioning as covid vaccination centres have stopped vaccinations owing to short supply of vaccine.
Q. What is Government’s stand?
- Health Minister says the "allegations" of vaccine scarcity are "utterly baseless" – saying more than 40 million doses are "in stock or nearing delivery".
- He blames states for trying to "divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goalposts". He believes the states which are complaining of shortages have not even fully vaccinated their frontline workers.
- Moreover, according to health minister, The government is also working towards developing a system of globally valid digital vaccination certificates
Q. What about vaccine inoculation?
- More than 90 million doses of two approved vaccines - one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University (Covishield) and one by Indian firm Bharat BioTech (Covaxin) - have been given so far.
- An average of three million jabs are being administered daily.
Vaccine Export :
- India has so far shipped 64 million doses of vaccines to 85 countries. Some are in form of "gifts", others in line with commercial agreements signed between the vaccine makers and the recipient nations, and the rest under the Covax scheme, which is led by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Vaccine Manufacturing :
- When it comes to vaccine manufacture, India is a powerhouse. It runs a massive immunisation programme, makes 60% of the world's vaccines and is home to half a dozen major manufacturers, including the Serum Institute of India - the largest in the world. But a large-scale adult vaccination programme against a virulent pathogen like SARS-Cov2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is posing unprecedented challenges.
Q. What are the reasons for vaccine shortage?
- Experts say the vaccine shortages in parts of India could be because of supply bottlenecks. Vaccine makers had also possibly "oversold" their capacities while taking orders from all over the world. "As the cases rise and vaccine hesitancy falls, the demand for doses will increase.
- At the moment, India doesn't have too many options. A new vaccine - possibly Sputnik V - is expected to be approved by June. Covovax, another coronavirus vaccine being developed by Serum Institute in partnership with American vaccine developer Novavax, is not expected to be available before September.
- The key question, as many have been speculating, is whether India has enough stock of doses to speed up the drive and expand coverage to include the young. Some are wondering whether India did the right thing by sending millions of doses abroad as part of its much hyped "vaccine diplomacy".
Q. What is the way forward?
- India has to prioritise jabs. There's no other way to bring down the number of people dying of Covid-19 than to speedily provide shots to more than 120 millions of India's elderly.
- This needs to be done in the next few weeks, with the help of local governments, civil society, including religious leaders and backed by focused communication campaigns.