Over 35 million people in the 18-44 age group have signed up for Covid-19 vaccination since April 28 when registrations opened for this category, but less than two per cent of them have so far been able to receive a jab. This is the highest number of registrations seen in any one week since the inoculation exercise began in the country in January, showing that the 18-44 age group is the most eager to get the shot amid the destructive second coronavirus wave powered by new Covid variants impacting the younger population too, a senior government official has told News18. However, limited stocks of vaccines procured by certain states and private hospitals so far has meant that only 6.62 lakh people of the 18-44 age group have got vaccinated from May 1 until May 4. This is also why applicants see ‘booked’ slots in ‘red’ mostly when trying to line one up.
A dozen states and Union Territories that were among the first to place orders with the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech have got the stocks first and have started vaccinations. The lead has been taken by BJP-ruled Gujarat, which has vaccinated 1.61 lakh people so far accounting for 25% of all such vaccinations, followed by Congress-ruled Rajasthan with 1.26 lakh vaccinations, and Maha Vikas Aghadi-ruled Maharashtra with 1.11 crore jabs administered to the 18-44 age group. Both Gujarat and Rajasthan have limited the exercise to select centres so far with Covishield, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and being manufactured by SII. Maharashtra is offering both Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Haryana has given close to one lakh jabs to the 18-44 age group and is offering only Covishield so far while the number stands at about 80,000 for Delhi where both Covishield and Covaxin are on offer. The vaccinations in the same age group stand at 51,236 for Uttar Pradesh which only has Covaxin stocks so far. UP announced on Wednesday that it will start vaccination for this category in 17 more cities from next week and has also issued a global tender to procure 4 crore vaccines, besides releasing Rs 20 crore as advance to both SII and Bharat Biotech for a total of one crore doses.
Other states/UTs that have started vaccinating the 18-44 age category on a smaller scale are Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. Some private hospital chains have procured Covishield too from manufacturers to start the vaccination. The number of private vaccination centres has dropped to just about 2,100 presently from around 5,000 last month as the government has stopped supplying any vaccines to them.
India’s vaccination drive began on January 16 for healthcare workers. It was gradually expanded to accommodate front-line workers, and then the population above 60 years and those above 45 years with underlying health conditions, or comorbidities. From April, the comorbidity clause was removed, making all above 45 eligible for the shot. Finally, from May 1, India became one of the few countries to open the vaccination drive to all adults. But there have been impediments.
States are hoping that supplies from Serum Institute would improve from May 20 to enable them to offer more slots for vaccination. In a statement earlier this week, the Serum Institute said it would supply 110 million vaccines to states and private hospitals “over the next few months”. This could be key to satisfying the urge of 35 million-plus registered people within a week, and growing, for the shot in the coming days. The speed of such registrations can be gauged by the fact that 145 million people of other age and priority groups registered over 109 days of the ongoing vaccination exercise.