India Fails to Rollout PM Modi-Backed COVID Vaccine Drive For 18-45 Year-Olds Amid Widespread Crunch

India announced on 19 April that it would inoculate people aged 18-45 starting 1 May under its ‘Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy’. The two vaccine manufacturers have been asked to supply 50 percent of their production to the federal government, with the remaining 50 percent to be handed over to the state authorities.

Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Maharashtra, Kerala, Uttarakhand and Delhi were among the Indian states which said they would be unable to rollout COVID vaccines for 18-45 year olds as the  country embarked on its third phase of a federal government-backed universal inoculation programme on Saturday.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief of Delhi, called upon the residents of India’s national capital to not “queue up” at vaccination centres on 1 May, in a televised appeal aired on the eve of the third vaccination phase.

“We are yet to receive vaccine shots to be administered and are in touch with the company manufacturing it; we should start receiving it over two to three days,” said Kejriwal.

Meanwhile, the western state of Maharashtra received around 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine only hours before the beginning of the third phase. However, the state authorities say that with available stocks, they would only be able to begin the third phase in “symbolic” terms.

Only five government centres run by Mumbai’s municipal agency Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will be open to the 18-45 year old population from Saturday,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani.

The chief of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan has said that the southern state won’t be able to begin Phase III of the vaccination programme until it received its orders from the two vaccine manufacturers—the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech.

In Tamil Nadu, another south Indian state, authorities have said that they won’t be able to roll out the third phase of the vaccine drive at all.

“We are ready to administer the vaccines for those 18-44 years. However, without the supply, it is not possible to start the drive from May 1,” said Tamil Nadu’s Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan.

The SII is manufacturing Covishield, which is licensed by British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Bharat Biotech, on the other hand, is producing Covaxin, an India-made COVID jab touted as being effective against the ‘Indian’ strain by the White House’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The Health Department in Uttarakhand, meanwhile, has said that it would be able to begin inoculating the 18-45 year-old population only after the first week of May.

Similarly, the eastern state of West Bengal has expressed doubts over the rolling out of the third phase from Saturday owing to a lack of jabs.

Many people have complained that not only is there a vaccine shortage for the 18-45 year-old population, insisting that even many above age 45 are unable to get their second vaccine dose. The second phase of the vaccination programme was rolled out on 1 March and covers everyone above the age of 60, as well as those over 45 years with co-morbidities. It was later extended to cover everyone above age 45.

​Only a few private hospitals across the country, including Max and Fortis, have said that they have the available stocks to go ahead with Phase III of the vaccine drive.

Despite several states having reported a shortage of vaccines in recent days, Prime Minister Modi’s government has maintained that India faces no scarcity of vaccines.

Federal Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has on several occasions rejected criticism around a shortage of vaccines in the country, calling the claims “baseless” and “deplorable attempts” by opposition-ruled states to divert attention from their failures in handling the COVID pandemic.


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