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States claim dearth of Covid vaccines, Centre says ‘no such fear, have ordered more doses’

Health ministry officials say they distributed 7.5 crore doses to states in proportion to their population. But the number of doses that had been used up so far was 5.31 crore.

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New Delhi: Amid allegations about shortage of Covid-19 vaccines by opposition parties ahead of elections in five states and UTs, the health ministry clarified there’s no dearth of vaccines in India.

Health ministry sources said India has not even used 5.5 crore doses of the 7.5 crore doses distributed to the states so far. 

“We have so far distributed 7.5 crore doses of the vaccines to states in proportion to their eligible population. Till this morning, the number of doses that had been used up was 5.31 crore. There is no fear of a shortage. We have also ordered 12 crore more doses and supplies will start from Saturday,” a senior health ministry official told ThePrint.

Several opposition politicians, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, have alleged a vaccine shortage.

“If a poor man takes Rs 500 from someone, you say it is ‘cut money’. What about the crores of rupees that you have stolen? Where did the money in the PM CARES Fund go? Why is there a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines?” Mamata had said during a rally in East Midnapore last week. 

Government sources told ThePrint this is, however, not the first time that questions about vaccine supply have been raised.

Also read: UK’s Covid vaccine shortage blamed on delay in shipment from India’s Serum Institute

Many states have alleged shortage

Besides Mamata, leaders from Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra have, at various times, alleged that they are staring at a shortage of vaccines. The Centre has time and again refuted such claims.

In a letter dated 12 March to Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote, “For the ongoing vaccination drive, a total of 54.17 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been supplied to the state of Maharashtra and additional 12,74,00,00 doses are in pipeline and will reach the state by 18 March 2021.”

“As on 12 March 2021, a total of only 23.98, lakh vaccinations have been administered as part of Covid-19 vaccination drive, thereby leaving adequate stocks available with the state for increasing the pace of vaccination and focusing on the vaccination effort,” he wrote.

Maharashtra, which has the dubious distinction of having nine of the top 10 high Covid burden districts in the country, has been asked to concentrate vaccination efforts in those districts.

Centre wrote to Punjab too

In a letter to Punjab Chief Secretary Vinnie Mahajan on 13 March, Bhushan wrote along similar lines. 

“The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has so far supplied to Punjab a total of 12,38,920 doses of vaccine (11,04,840 Covishield and 1,340,80 Covaxin),” he stated.

“Till 12 March 2021, only 3,581,62 doses have been consumed in the state. You would agree that there is an urgent need to accelerate the pace of Covid immunisation in Punjab. This can be achieved by optimal utilisation of both public and private healthcare facilities and by ensuring that priority age groups are quickly covered by vaccination in your state to control Covid-19 transmission and search in active cases,” he said.

Earlier this month, when Rajasthan had alleged shortage of vaccines, the Centre had denied that too.

(Edited by Debalina Dey)

Also read: Prioritise Covid vaccine supplies within India over exports, govt tells Serum & Bharat Biotech


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