Mumbai: Locked in a bitter tussle with the Centre over the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, Maharashtra, which is struggling to contain a high caseload, reduced its daily vaccinations by nearly 35 per cent over the last three days, with many districts unwilling to scale up the vaccination drive beyond a point citing shortage.
The state government had ramped up its vaccination drive to administer over 4 lakh doses across the state in a day. From 3 April to 8 April, the government administered an average of 4,00,808 Covid vaccine doses every day.
However, hit by an alleged shortage of vaccine stock and the Centre being unwilling to meet the state government’s exact demand, the vaccination drive has dwindled over the last three days, with Maharashtra being able to administer only 2,59,707 doses on an average every day from 9 April to 11 April.
The Uddhav Thackeray government, which has so far administered over 1.02 crore vaccine doses, was earlier preparing to speed up the drive to 6 lakh doses a day.
“Now, targeting 6 lakh doses a day is out of question unless the Centre gives us enough stock. We are planning the drive with the stock we’ve got,” an official from Health Minister Rajesh Tope’s office said.
‘Can’t scale up vaccinations beyond a point’
In the last three days, many Covid vaccination centres in the state remained shut due to shortage of doses. In Mumbai, all private centres were shut over the weekend with only civic centres administering the vaccines.
According to data from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the civic body was able to open 62 of the 71 private Covid vaccination centres Monday and administered 39,300 doses between the second half of Sunday and the first half of Monday.
While this figure is higher than the inoculations over the weekend, it is still a far cry from the over 50,000 doses that the civic body was averaging until Thursday last week.
In Nashik, District Collector Suraj Mandhare said the administration has identified 1,167 vaccinators and has the preparedness to start as many centres.
“We have the capacity to launch at least 1,100 centres and inoculate 100 at each centre every day, making it possible to administer 1 lakh doses a day. But, because of low stock we have activated only 224 centres. At any given point of time, we have only enough stock to give us some visibility for the next four to five days so we can’t scale up the drive beyond a point,” Mandhare said. For two days a week, he added, a number of centres have to be regularly kept shut because of low supply.
According to data from the district administration, Nashik has until now received 5.57 lakh doses, of which it has used 4.65 lakh, with a wastage of 11,227 doses. The 91,940 doses left with the district are sufficient only to meet the district’s requirement for the next five days at the current pace of inoculations.
Pune, which has been leading in Maharashtra’s vaccination drive, had set a target of ‘Mission 100’, aiming to inoculate its entire population in the next 100 days. As part of the plan, the district also wanted to ramp up its daily vaccination drive to 1 lakh doses. However, in the first 13 days of April, the district averaged about 57,000 doses a day with the highest being 85,000 on 5 April.
Pune, also home to the manufacturing plants of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine, has been one of worst-affected districts in the country during the first as well as the second wave of the pandemic.
Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao told ThePrint: “We are working with a margin of 2-3 days. Government as well as private centres feel comfortable if there is sufficient stock available. But since we have a limited number of vaccines available for the whole state or every district, this seems to be the most efficient way of doing things.”
He added that the gap in demand and supply will continue. “The number of vaccination centres in the district has grown five times since the drive started on 16 January. As soon as you increase the centres, the quota that you get will be very thinly scattered. If you reduce the numbers then it creates hardships for people. There are various centres where some stock will always be shown unutilised and such stock across 600 centres looks substantial, so the Centre feels unless the existing stock is efficiently used it should not be replenished.”
Tope said last week the state has Covid vaccine stock only enough to last three days, and that several centres across the state are being shut down because of lack of vaccine doses.
Tope said he had requested Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to provide Maharashtra with 40 lakh doses a week for it to be able to scale up its vaccination drive to 6 lakh doses a day.
Vardhan had earlier slammed the claims of a vaccine shortage as “utterly baseless”. Singling out Maharashtra, the Union health minister said the statements about shortage were “nothing but an attempt to divert attention” from the state government’s “repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic”.
After the verbal war, the Centre decided to send a fresh stock of 17 lakh doses to Maharashtra, which has smoothened some of the hiccups. However, Tope said it will not be enough considering the rising cases in the state. He complained that Maharashtra was not getting priority in getting vaccination doses despite being the worst-affected state.
Maharashtra has administered over 1.02 crore shots as of 11 April. Of these, 92.27 lakh were the first doses.
The state started its vaccination drive on 16 January with 18,338 shots and rapidly increased it to over 4 lakh a day with more than 3,000 centres as Covid cases started piling up.
The state has been consistently recording new peaks in the number of daily Covid-positive cases in the fresh wave. On 12 April, the number of new cases was 51,751. Maharashtra has so far recorded 34,58,996 Covid-positive cases, of which 5,64,746 are active.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)