India is facing an acute shortage and derailing of COVID-19 vaccination. On Saturday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has declared the closure of vaccination camps meant for the 18-44 age group due to shortages in vaccine supply. Karnataka resumed starting of vaccination on Saturday after it stopped on May 12. Many chief ministers are expressing concerns of imminent vaccine shortages and are temporarily stopping vaccination camps meant for the 18-44 age category. Why did this happen? It is due to mismanagement and lack of planning of vaccine production in India, having a population of more than 136 crores, of which more than 95 crores are above 18 years.
As of today (May 22, 2021), India has administered 18.8 crore vaccine doses and out of this 4.13 crore people got full vaccination of 2 doses. 4.13 crores represent just 3 per cent of the population of India. After India opened vaccination for the 18-44 age category, many complaints started on the non-availability of vaccines and even the registration on website Cowin could not book a slot timing for vaccination, except providing registration. Many also got cancellation messages of the allotted slots.
The Government of India would have allowed other firms in India to make a tie-up with India’s own Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin to roll out in January 2021 itself.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court has already said that kids above 12 years should be vaccinated before the third wave. That adds another 20 crores of people to be on the vaccination radar. When is India going to be equipped?
Why all this chaos? The simple truth is that India is facing an acute shortage of vaccines. India gave sanction only to two companies, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech only. The SII is producing the UK based Oxford Asta Zeneca’s Indian version Covishield and the company CEO Adar Poonawalla has spoken many times about the acute shortage in production to meet India’s requirements. The SII was supplying around 85% of the production and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin 15%. Now many firms in India are allowed to produce Covaxin with a tie-up from Bharat Biotech and the Government of India has now allowed the import of Sputnik, Pfizer, J&J etc. When these imported vaccines will be rolled out to the masses an open question.
Many states have also started inviting global tenders. These procedures will come to a logical conclusion only by July or August. Actually, the Government of India would have allowed other firms in India to make a tie-up with India’s own Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin to roll out in January 2021 itself. As Bharat Biotech is a fully Indian company, no patent issues would have come, if the Government of India used its might or powers. But that did not happen. At the end of April, only a few firms, starting with the Maharashtra Government’s Haffkine Institute, got approval to produce Covaxin. This shows that Modi Government delayed the decision on this aspect for more than four months.
Central Government also has vaccine producing units. To date, no Central Government’s vaccine companies are engaged in Covaxin production like Maharashtra Government’s Haffkine Institute. Is the bureaucracy showing its stunning ineptness again?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now facing an all-out criticism for his pompous PR show of exporting 6.8 crore vaccine doses to 86 countries when India had hardly vaccinated just one per cent of the population. These things happen when bureaucracy does not advise its political masters properly or if political masters fail to read between the lines of the praises of the dubious coterie surrounding him.
India is still conducting vaccinations through website (Cowin) registration. This website registration is ineffective in rural areas or poor people. As per the government’s own claim they have distributed free rations to 85 crore people. Is the government expecting poor people to register through a website or smartphone? There must be area-wise vaccination camps and an effort to educate people to come to vaccination centres.
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