A fresh surge in Covid-19 cases in the country has also prompted a growing demand for vaccines as citizens and authorities seek ways to limit the squeeze of restrictive measures and usher in a semblance of normalcy in the thick of the crisis. But, reports indicate, supply is less than adequate, even as the Centre on Wednesday termed allegations of vaccine shortage “utterly baseless”. In Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad city, for instance, many doctors and medical centres are telling people that they have run out of doses.
“We don’t have vaccine stock since Monday. We could vaccinate only 50 people on Monday instead of the usual 200. We have stopped vaccinations since then. There’s no clarity on when next stock will come,” Dr Alok Gupta, director of Lyf Hospital in Ghaziabad’s Indirapuram, told NDTV on Thursday. “We are willing to vaccinate but no stock is being sent from the government. People with pre-booked slots are turning up for vaccination and are arguing with us after being told about the unavailability (of vaccines).”
The vaccine shortage outcry has emerged from about half a dozen states. The inoculation process was halted last evening in parts of Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, reportedly because doses were unavailable. India has detected 1,26,789 new cases in the past 24 hours, the highest so far. Of the total, Maharashtra saw a new high of 59,907 cases, Chhattisgarh’s count went past the 10,000-mark for the first time, while Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, too, reported more than 6,000 cases each. The country also recorded 685 Covid-related deaths.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan had on Wednesday alleged that the states demanding vaccination for all were trying to cover up their “failures” and spread panic among the people without first inoculating enough of the eligible beneficiaries. He also said the allegations of vaccine shortage were utterly baseless and the states, including Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, need to improve the implementation of their testing and containment strategies and vaccination drive. The “lackadaisical” attitude of the Maharashtra government has “singularly bogged down” the entire country’s efforts to fight the virus, he said in a strongly worded statement.
“I am constrained to speak out now because my silence should not be misconstrued for weakness. Playing politics is easy, but improving governance and health infrastructure is the real test,” the minister said.
From April 1, the government has opened up the vaccination process to everyone born before January 1, 1977. In a new notification on Tuesday, it allowed vaccination sessions at workplaces, both public and private.
Deepak Gupta, a 49-year-old businessman, told NDTV he is among those who were turned away by a hospital in Ghaziabad. “I have been running around vaccination centres for the last 3 to 4 days. There are no vaccines anywhere. We want to protect our health as well as of those around us but no vaccines are available,” he said. “We are taking time off from work to get vaccinated but it’s all getting wasted due to the vaccine shortage.”
Some experts have said that new and more infectious variants of the novel coronavirus may have played a part in the outpouring of cases, with strains first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil now springing up in India.