Prime News, National (New Delhi), May 8:- Covid-19 vaccination levels have crashed by more than 50% in the first week of May from a month earlier, even as the Centre has expanded the drive-by allowing all adults eligible for the jab, the government’s own statistics show.
About 11.6 million shots were administered from May 1 to May 7, as per the CoWIN platform. This shows an over 50% drop from the record number of 24.7 million vaccinations in the April 3-9 week — immediately after the government allowed all above 45 years to get inoculated.
In fact, the number of jabs given this week is the lowest in the last eight weeks, raising questions about the efficacy of the new universal vaccination policy rolled out this month. From May 1, the government brought all adults under the vaccination programme.
At 13.4 million, more jabs, for example, were given in the March 13-19 week, when the exercise was open only for the 60+ age group and those between age 45-59 with comorbidities, apart from the frontline and health workers. Before vaccination opened for all, the country saw 14.8 million jabs given from April 24 to April 30. India’s vaccination drive began on January 16 with health care workers and then was then expanded to include frontline workers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is cognisant of the falling vaccination numbers and has already raised the matter twice. First, in a video conference with 11 chief ministers on April 23 — he asked them to ensure that the vaccination drive does not slow down. Then the PM reiterated this appeal before central government officers on May 6 at a review meeting.
The Centre has identified two major issues plaguing the vaccination drive. One is the ongoing lockdown-like restrictions in many states that are making people wary of stepping out for vaccination. The other is the lack of vaccination staff, with resources getting diverted for patient care duties given rising admissions at hospitals. “Citizens should be facilitated for vaccination despite lockdowns, and healthcare workers involved in vaccination must not be diverted for other duties,” the PM said at the review meeting on May 6, as per a statement.
The problem, however, seems to be deeper with the vaccination exercise for 18-44 not taking off as expected, despite nearly 40 million people of this age group registering for jabs; just 1.47 million of them were administered vaccines in the first week of May. When the vaccination drive hit a record number from April 3 to April 9, the Centre was supplying all vaccines to states free of cost and there were no major supply issues. But under the new policy that was rolled out from May 1, states were asked to procure vaccine supplies directly from manufacturers at their own cost for the 18-44 age group, hence delinking this part from the rest of the ongoing vaccination exercise. The Centre-sponsored drive, under which vaccines are still free at government hospitals, continues for those above 45 and health care and frontline workers.
Thirty states and Union Territories have so far been able to procure limited vaccine stocks, impairing the speed of the exercise for the 18-44 age group. While some are yet to receive stocks, Punjab said it has now been promised 1 lakh doses over the weekend by Serum Institute of India, which makes Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine under the name of Covishield. Others like Maharashtra have said they want to give priority to those who are due for their second dose in the 45+ age group. West Bengal has, meanwhile, gone to the Supreme Court, asking for a universal free vaccination policy for all people. “Supplies to states from the suppliers, mainly Serum Institute, are expected to improve from the last week of May and we will then see the vaccination numbers going up,” a senior government official told News18.
New states and Union Territories are joining the drive to vaccinate the 18-44 group, but with some really low numbers. On May 7, Chandigarh vaccinated two people and Puducherry just one person. Two people each were vaccinated in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya. Uttarakhand saw 19 vaccinations and Himachal Pradesh 14. In Kerala, the number stood at 35. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).