CHENNAI: The next phase of vaccinating all adults over 18 years as part of the country’s fight against coronavirus may not kick off in southern states on Saturday as planned for want of supply of doses, three months after the national launch of the immunisation programme.
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Puducherry said they did not have adequate stocks of vaccines to meet the expected rush of immunity seekers, even as the country’s Covid graph, including in southern states, has been mercilessly on the upward trend.
Due to the uncertainty over the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, the Tamil Nadu government on Friday deferered its rollout of the massive vaccination drive for the 18-44 years age group on May 1 as originally planned.
Explaining the predicament, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said, “instead of waiting till tomorrow (and disappoint people), I wish to clarify (now) that we are unsure when and how much out of 1.5 crore doses of vaccine sought by Tamil Nadu, will arrive.”
Asked if the vaccination will not happen tomorrow, the secretary shot back, “we don’t know if we will get (vaccines) tomorrow and how much.”
The state government has not yet received a reply from the Centre on the demand for vaccines.
Assuming the Central government would give its nod, the quantum that would be sanctioned to Tamil Nadu is yet to be known, he told reporters here.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state can’t decide anything on its own when there is a shortage.
“It has become difficult to decide on vaccination,” he said, apparently hinting the inoculation drive may not take off on Saturday.
The Kerala government had on Wednesday decided to procure one crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines, including 70 lakh Covishield jabs, for the third phase of vaccination slated on Saturday.
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said the inoculation drive for people in the 18 years plus group will be delayed as the vaccine has not been supplied yet.
“Our Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar has said clearly that the vaccine has not been supplied yet. We will vaccinate people once it arrives,” he told reporters.
He dismissed charges that it was a failure on the part of the government for not getting the vaccine beforehand.
Earlier, Sudhakar said the vaccination drive on Saturday will not start as planned.
“It is not possible for us to start vaccinating people from 18 years to 45 years from tomorrow. Please don’t take it otherwise. The moment we get official information, we will let you know,” Sudhakar told reporters.
“We have made orders to Serum Institute in Pune for over one crore doses but the official news is that they are still not prepared to give it to us from tomorrow as scheduled,” the Minister added.
He asked people who have enrolled themselves on the Cowin portal for inoculation to refrain from going to vaccination centres on May 1, adding the government will later intimate them upon confirmation of arrival of doses.
Andhra Pradesh too expressed its inability to implement the third phase of inoculation due to shortage of vaccine doses.
Anil Kumar Singhal, principal secretary (medical and health), said the mass vaccination programme will not begin in the state due to the said issue.
The state needs four crore vaccines to vaccinate two crore people (two doses) in the 18-44 years age group.
The Telangana government had said on Thursday that it may not be able to start the vaccination drive from Saturday as it is hit by shortage of vaccines.
A senior official of Telangana health department said though the state government is in touch with the vaccine manufacturers, there is no certainty on when the stocks would be available for the mass vaccination.
“There are no possibilities (of vaccination). We are in touch with manufacturers also,” Telangana Public Health Director G Srinivasa Rao had told PTI.
“We are in search of the vaccine. We require around four crore doses,” he said.
He said the vaccine manufacturers also could not assure the state government as to when they will be able to supply stocks.
In the union territory Puducherry, the plan to vaccinate those in the said age group, scheduled for May 1, has been shelved for now for want of vaccines.
A spokesman of the Department of Health and Family Welfare Services here told PTI that the consignment of vaccines needed for the programme has not arrived and hence the programme is delayed.