The Covid statistics of the Ministry of Health says the first week of June has administered 1.94 crore Covid vaccine doses, almost 70 lakh doses more than the first week of May when the country opened its vaccination drive to vaccinate all 94 crore adult population. But it is still short of the total vaccination done in the first week of April when 2.17 crore people were vaccinated. In April, 8.98 crore doses were administered which dropped 6.10 crore doses in May.
The month of May saw daily vaccination dropped by 34% and monthly vaccination by 32% when compared with vaccination stats in April when 45+ population base, or 34.5 crore Indians, were eligible for the vaccination.
States and union territories flagged vaccine shortage and had to withhold the vaccination drive on many days, especially for the population base in the 18-44 years of age segment.
Under the ‘liberalised vaccine policy’ from May 1, the Central government provided free vaccine doses for healthcare workers, frontline workers and 45+ population segment while the State governments/Union Territories and private hospitals had to separately procure vaccine doses to vaccinate the 18-44 population base.
But vaccine manufacturers refused to supply the vaccine doses directly to them initially as the vaccine order of the Centre was already in the pipeline. State governments/UTs also tried to import vaccines by floating global tenders but companies like Pfizer and Moderna said they would directly deal with the Government of India and not the State governments/UTs. And even if these companies would have agreed to supply, it would have taken some time for the vaccine stock to arrive in India while the need was immediate.
It was expected that the vaccination pace in June would cross the April mark of almost 9 crore vaccinations done after the Union Health Ministry has assured that States and UTs will receive nearly 12 crore vaccine doses this month: 6.09 crore for free and 5.86 crore through direct procurement this month.
But the first week of June has administered 23 lakh vaccine doses less than the first week of April and it looks an uphill task ahead even if the Serum Institute of India, which manufactures Covishield, has said it would ramp up its monthly production capacity between nine and 10 crore doses in June from the existing 6.5 crore doses and add this to 80 million doses of the imported Russian Vaccine Sputnik V and around 1 crore doses of Covaxin by Bharath Biotech.
Though the Central government has decided to take over the vaccination drive under its control again from June 21, promising free vaccine even to the 18-44 population segment this time, we may not, in end, touch the 12 crore mark or the April vaccination figure if we go ahead with the monthly average based on the first-week vaccination output.
On average, the country has administered 27.79 lakh vaccine doses daily so far in this month, which means a monthly figure of around 8.3 crore vaccine doses.
The reason again will be the shortage of vaccines.
On May 19, the Health Ministry informed that, as told by the vaccine manufacturers, the States/UTs are expected to get 4.87 crore vaccine doses by the end of this month. It means vaccines may be in the pipeline but may not be available at the vaccination centres. So, it doesn’t matter who controls the vaccination drive, we are bound to see a slow pace of vaccination growth rate this month until we expedite the vaccine production and supply timeline. Let’s see if the weeks ahead see an increased pace of vaccine availability.