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covid vaccines: Some states start rationing Covid vaccines as inventories dwindled

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Faced with low vaccine stocks, some states changed tack on Thursday and scaled down inoculations by half, focussing on administering second doses instead of first jabs. The Centre, however, dismissed reports of low supplies as “fear mongering” and said India had enough stocks.

Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha continued to shut vaccination centres on the third consecutive day as inventories dwindled. Odisha closed 700 vaccination centres on Wednesday and 300 more on Thursday. The state cut its inoculation numbers by half over Wednesday and Thursday to ensure its Covid-19 public immunisation drive doesn’t stop completely.

“As we have closed down centres due to shortage, we are going slow on utilisation now so as to at least vaccinate people waiting for second doses,” Odisha National Health Mission director Shalini Pandit told ET.

The state, which had been administering 200,000-250,000 doses daily, vaccinated 109,000 on Wednesday.

“As of Thursday (9am) we had stock of 4.35 lakh doses of Covishield in the state,” Pandit said. “With this stock, we will be able to continue vaccination for the next two days. By April 9, there will be stock out of Covishield vaccine. So far, there has been no intimation (from the Centre) on more supply.”

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No Discrimination: Vardhan

The Centre, however, maintained there was no shortage. Deriding the “fear mongering,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted that India had 135 million doses, out of which it had administered 90 million, while 24 million were in stock and 19 million were in the pipeline. “Where does question of shortages arise? We are continuously monitoring and enhancing supply,” he said.

Maharashtra, the worst-affected state in India, was the victim of “discrimination,” said its health minister Rajesh Tope. He said the BJP-ruled states of Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh had received more doses even though they had less population to cover. Vardhan retaliated on Twitter and said the most doses had been supplied to Maharashtra (10.6 million), Gujarat (10.5 million) and Rajasthan (10.5 million).

Andhra Pradesh got a respite on Thursday as it received 200,000 vaccine doses. However, the state is still running low on supplies. Inoculation numbers have been dropping — from 125,000 on Monday to 87,524 on Tuesday. The state government has been moving supplies around to keep jabs going. “We have had to cut down vaccination numbers as we are moving vaccine supplies between districts,” a senior official told ET.

Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have also reported Covaxin supply constraints as well. After the Subject Expert Committee removed Covaxin from the “clinical trial mode” on March 10, there has been a sharp increase in demand for the indigenous vaccine. However, supply has not been able to keep up with demand.

Some vaccination centres were shut in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday and Thursday due to a shortage of Covaxin. Haryana had flagged this issue to the health ministry last week.

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