Vaccine shortage delays Covid-19 inoculation drive for 18-plus in Northeast
Despite being the world's biggest producer of vaccines, the country is suffering an internal shortage and has placed a temporary hold on all exports
The second COVID-19 wave in India has proved far deadlier than the first wave as cases and deaths continue to increase at an unprecedented pace with more than four lakh positive cases reported every day from across the country.
To contain the deadly virus, India launched its massive vaccination drive on January 16 with two locally-produced vaccines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had kicked off the world's largest vaccination drive virtually.
In Assam, caretaker Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, 59, after getting vaccinated at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), tweeted: "Took my first shot of COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines are safe and will help us defeat this pandemic. I urge all eligible persons of the state to get vaccinated and continue following safety precautions."
Arunachal Pradesh joined the national vaccination drive from the state's lone medical college Tomo Riba Institute of Health & Medical Science with the receipt of 32,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine, a product of Serum Institute of India. The vaccination started across the state the next day.
On April 13, Arunachal Pradesh Governor of Brig (Retd) B. D. Mishra, after taking the first jab at Raj Bhawan, urged all to get vaccinated for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones.
On April 20, Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who was administered the first shot of the vaccine, tweeted: "Got my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine today at Khandro Drowa Zangmo Hospital at Tawang. I urge all eligible for vaccine must come forward and get vaccinated. This will provide the much-needed protection amidst the second wave." The CM a day earlier had made a fervent appeal to all above 45 years to get vaccinated.
Most of the state governors and chief ministers of northeastern states have taken the first dose of the vaccine.
PM Modi on April 19 had announced that people above 18 years of age will be eligible to get the vaccine from May 1. The Govt has been working hard for over a year to ensure that maximum numbers of Indians are able to get the vaccine in the shortest possible time, PM Modi said, adding "India is vaccinating people at world record pace and we will continue this with even greater momentum."
The Union government said that about 150 million shots have been given, equivalent to 11.5% of India's 1.3 billion people till May 2.
Arunachal Pradesh joined national vaccination drive from state's lone medical college Tomo Riba Institute of Health & Medical Science with receipt of 32,000 doses of Covishield vaccine, a product of Serum Institute of India.Despite being the world's biggest producer of vaccines, the country is suffering an internal shortage and has placed a temporary hold on all exports of AstraZeneca to meet domestic demand.
More than 13 million people aged 18-45 have registered for the jab. But, the shortage of vaccines has delayed the third phase of the COVID-19 inoculation drive for those above 18 years in eight NE states.
Assam's Health and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the vaccine suppliers have been unable to meet the demand of states.
"We expect some information about the vaccine soon. We have already placed orders for one crore dose each with the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech. The Centre is pursuing vaccine manufacturers accordingly," he told reporters in Guwahati.
He said about 26 lakh people aged 45 years and above have been inoculated in Assam so far.
In Tripura, "vaccination for 18-plus is likely to start after May 15. Our government has already sanctioned, 133.19 crores to purchase vaccines for 18-plus free of cost," Education and Law Minister Ratan Lal Nath said.
Meghalaya CM Conrad K. Sangma has said that his Govt would soon announce the date for inoculation 18-plus. "We have placed orders with the SII," Health Minister Alexander L. Hek said.
Health officials in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim also have said that the third phase of inoculation would be delayed due to a shortage of vaccines.
The cumulative 15,89,32,921 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered through 23,35,822 sessions with 17,08,390 doses on the 108th day of the drive 03.05.21, the Union health ministry said the next day.
However, the slow rate of vaccination in India has also made the second wave worse, commented former RBI governor-cum-University of Chicago finance professor Raghuram Rajan and blamed the Central Govt for its poor handling of the second wave.
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