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Is India, ‘pharmacy of the world’, facing COVID vaccine shortage?

New Delhi, India – As India continues to reel below a second – and extra vicious – wave of coronavirus with a mean of greater than 90,000 instances being reported since April 1, a scarcity of vaccines has added to the disaster.

From below 15,000 instances a day at the starting of March, India on Friday reported its all-time excessive of 131,968 new COVID-19 instances – a document enhance for a 3rd straight day – pushing the nation’s whole an infection tally to greater than 13 million.

Daily infections surpassed 100,000 mark for the first time on Monday and have now exceeded that mark 4 instances this week, marking the largest day by day rise in the world’s third-worst hit nation after the United States and Brazil.

Amid the document surge, many Indian states have reported operating out of vaccines at the same time as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s authorities continues to insist there’s sufficient inventory. India is the largest producer of vaccines and is called the “pharmacy of the world”.

A well being employee readies a COVID-19 vaccine as one other comforts an aged lady at a well being centre in Bahakajari village in northeastern Assam state [File: Anupam Nath/AP]

India began its vaccination programme in January however has been capable of administer solely 90 million pictures in a inhabitants of greater than 1.3 billion individuals, with most of them accounting for the first dose of a two-dose regime.

The nation is at the moment in its third part of vaccination, the place these above 45 years of age are eligible to get the anti-COVID-19 pictures.

‘They should go home’

The western state of Maharashtra, the pandemic’s present epicentre in India and residential to monetary capital Mumbai, issued a dire warning on Wednesday, saying provides would run out in three days until replenished.

“We are having to tell people that since vaccine supplies have not arrived, they should go home,” mentioned state well being minister Rajesh Tope.

Indian media reviews mentioned vaccination centres throughout India’s richest state have been operating out of doses, with healthcare employees turning individuals in search of inoculation away.

However, federal Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday mentioned many states have been attempting to “distract attention from their failures and spread panic among the people”, calling allegations of shortages in Maharashtra “utterly baseless”.

Villagers wait to obtain a dose of COVISHIELD vaccine at a healthcare centre in Limb village in Satara district in the western state of Maharashtra [File: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

But Maharashtra isn’t the solely state reporting a scarcity of vaccines. According to a Times of India newspaper report, 10 states have shares that can final solely three or 4 extra days, together with Uttar Pradesh, dwelling to about 200 million individuals, in addition to Odisha, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.

“We have hardly one-and-a-half-day’s stock and if we do not get any supply by day after tomorrow [Friday], we will [have to] stop the entire vaccination across the state” mentioned Pradipta Mohapatra, the further chief secretary of Odisha’s well being and household welfare division.

Mohapatra instructed Al Jazeera over the phone that Odisha, dwelling to almost 44 million individuals, vaccinated as a lot as 272,000 individuals a day however needed to “step down because vaccines are not there”.

“We vaccinated only 110,000 people yesterday [Wednesday] while 700 vaccination centres were shut down on the day,” he mentioned, including that half the state’s vaccination centres are actually closed.

Neighbouring Chhattisgarh’s Health Minister Tribhuvaneshwar Saran Singh Deo instructed Al Jazeera that his state had nearly run out of vaccine shares earlier this week and doses needed to be rushed. But he added that the provides would final solely three days.

“We should be upfront and tell the country that the supply is limited and the vaccination drive will go on according to the supply of the vaccine and we are attempting to increase the manufacturing,” he mentioned.

“This is what should be put up rather than saying that there is no dearth of vaccine.”

On Thursday, Jharkhand’s Health Minister Banna Gupta additionally mentioned the state is brief of COVID-19 vaccines and is barely left with the inventory that might final one to 2 days.

Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, COVID-19 nodal officer in Punjab state in the west, mentioned they’d 400,000 vaccine doses with them, a provide for 3 to 4 days.

Bhaskar mentioned the regional authorities has requested the centre to ship extra vaccines and have been assured of an sufficient quantity of doses.

“As of now, we are OK for the next three to four days,” Bhaskar mentioned. “If we don’t receive supplies soon, we may be reaching that point [stopping the vaccination drive] but right now we don’t have to stop vaccination at any place.”

The southeastern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have additionally complained of vaccine scarcity.

‘Why no strategy?’

Amid mounting considerations over the scarcity, Prime Minister Modi on Thursday rejected calls from states to supply vaccinations to youthful individuals, whereas Health Minister Vardhan mentioned India had greater than 43 million vaccine doses in inventory or in the pipeline.

“It’s not that you can set up these big vaccine factories overnight,” Modi mentioned in his deal with to the chief ministers of states by way of video convention. “Whatever production we have got, we will have to prioritise.”

Modi on Thursday acquired his second dose of coronavirus vaccine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in New Delhi [India’s Press Information Bureau/Handout via Reuters]

“In our cities, a huge segment is poor or elderly… We should take them for vaccination and prioritise it,” Modi added.

Modi has proposed a “Tika Utsav” (Vaccination Festival) from April 11-14 to “vaccinate as many eligible people as possible and target zero-vaccine wastage”.

But the opposition events have blamed Modi’s authorities for exporting 64.5 million vaccine doses whereas itself masking solely a fraction of India’s 1.35 billion individuals.

“Why was there no strategy or planning put into the logistics of the vaccine programme?” the fundamental opposition Congress occasion mentioned on Twitter. “Why is there both extremely high wastage and an acute shortage of vaccines?”

BJP spokesman Syed Zafar Islam, with out naming the opposition events, mentioned individuals “should not play politics on vaccine”.

“All I can say is that there is absolutely no issue as far as vaccines are concerned. It’s in abundance, it’s available and it has been time and again being clarified by the concerned ministry and the government that it’s available,” he mentioned.

But Manish Tewari, a Congress chief and member of Indian Parliament, disagreed.

“Obviously states are articulating concern because there is shortage [of vaccines]. Nobody in his right mind in the middle of a pandemic is going to point out to a deficiency if it didn’t exist. It’s obviously because the deficiency exists that is why it’s being pointed out,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

Tewari mentioned the authorities ought to droop its vaccine diplomacy and inoculate each Indian, irrespective of age.

“[…] this vaccine diplomacy which they [Modi government] have undertaken and the 5.76 crore [more than 57 million] vaccine doses that they have exported to 71 countries … that process must be suspended temporarily and all the supplies need to be diverted and every Indian irrespective of age must be vaccinated as quickly as possible in order to mitigate the impact of the second wave,” he mentioned.

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