Covid-Vaccine crunch in India needs quick solution

The Covid-vaccine shortage is a serious topic going rounds in the media on Thursday. NDTV reported that private hospitals in the city of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh have announced that they are facing a vaccine crunch, and some of the private hospitals have not been carrying out vaccinations since Monday.

Maharashtra’s Health Minister Rajesh Tope wrote to Union Health Minister Dr.Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday, and mentioned that the State has just 3 to 4 days’ worth of vaccine. “Currently, we have 14 lakh vaccine doses which will get over in the next three days. We’ve urged for 40 lakh more vaccine doses per week. I’m not saying that the Center is not giving us vaccines but the speed of delivery of vaccines is slow”, Rajesh wrote.

On the same day, the Union Health Minister in a statement said “…the world’s largest vaccination drive was launched in India with the first recipients being our healthcare personnel and front-line workers.”

“Once this had progressed to a certain level, vaccination was opened up to further categories and is currently open to everyone above the age of 45 years. It is also to be noted that vaccination is completely free of cost for anyone getting vaccinated in government medical facilities.”

“So long as the supply of vaccines remains limited, there is no option but to prioritize. This is also the established practice around the world, and is well known to all State governments.”

Like Maharashtra’s Health Minister, Odisha’s Health Minister Naba Kisore Das wrote to Dr.Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday stating the shortage of vaccines. “Odisha is vaccinating about 2.5 lakh persons daily. Due to shortage of vaccine, we have had to close nearly 700 vaccination centers in the State (out of over 1400 functional sites, only 755 could be made active today),”

“As of 7th April (10.00 a.m.) we have stock of 5.34 lakh doses of Covishield in the State. With this stock, we will be able to continue vaccination for the next two days. By 9th April, there will be stock-out of Covishild vaccine in the entire state.”

Odisha’s Health Minister also said that they will need at least 10 days’ stock (25 lakh doses) for effective vaccination of the targeted population. He also mentioned that Odisha has achieved a negative vaccine wastage of -0.5% i.e. a vaccine savings of 0.5%

Looking at the vaccine crunch from another angle, Abhishek Sharma, a Mumbai-based healthcare analyst at Jefferies wrote in a report on Tuesday in which he said that without taking into account of the vaccines available in inventories, 1 months’ worth of vaccine supply in India (Covishield and Covaxin) last for only 17 days at peak demand, the Mint reported.

“As vaccination picks up pace across India, we expect to see demand outstripping supply over the next few months,”. He also said “approved vaccines are ramping up capacity but only slowly.”