COVID vaccines may take up to 5 months to reach private centres — governments say slots for all adults may open only after 2-3 weeks

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COVID vaccines may take up to 5 months to reach private centres — governments say slots for all adults may open only after 2-3 weeks
AFP
  • The promise of covid vaccines for the 18-44 age group from May 1 onwards looks murky for 2-3 weeks.
  • Delay is caused due to a shortage in vaccine supply.
  • Supply shortage has handcuffed states and hospitals to start inoculations from the given date.
The third wave of vaccination in India kicks off on Saturday, but only a few will be able to get it due to the acute shortage of vaccines. What's worse is that, if you don't get lucky to get a slot at a government vaccination centre then you might have to wait for around three weeks for some state-run hospitals and a minimum of five months to get one from the retail or 'free market'. So the promise of a vaccine for all adults is unlikely to be fulfilled in the near future.

Private hospitals and some states are now considering postponing the vaccination drive by about two weeks from May 1, as they're still in talks with the vaccine makers. Local vaccine makers -- Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech have stated that 50% of their capacity will be dedicated to the Indian government's vaccination programme and the remaining 50% will be for state governments and private hospitals. SII's current manufacturing capacity is 6-7 crore doses per month while Bharat Biotech made around 2 crore doses in April as against 1.5 crore doses in March.

SII has also mentioned in its statement, “We would urge all corporate and private individuals to access the vaccine through the state facilitated machinery and private health systems. Post 4-5 months, the vaccine will be made available in retail and free trade.”

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Maharastra's Health Minister Rajesh Tope, after announcing free vaccines for the 18-44 age group, said on Wednesday, “due to non-availability of vaccines at present, vaccination between the ages of 18 and 44 will not start from 1 May." A similar statement was issued by Tope's counterparts in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jharkhand. Rajasthan’s Health Minister Raghu Sharma on Sunday said, “Serum Institute told us that till 15 May, they may not even be able to complete the prior order of the Centre."

States are already facing delays in vaccine supply for those part of the second phase of vaccinations for the over 45 age population. Some states, such as Odisha, have already placed their order while some are still in talks with the vaccine manufacturers. "We have been told that the companies ideally need a lead time of eight weeks to deliver the vaccines," Rajan Khobragade, health secretary of Kerala, told IndiaSpend.

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