After Serum Institute of India, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech cut the cost of its COVID-19 vaccine ‘Covaxin’ from Rs 600 to Rs 400 per dose for state governments
Less than 48 hours before the beginning of the third phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive on 1 May, several states — Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Odisha and Maharashtra — said they don’t have sufficient doses of vaccine to inoculate people in the 18-45 age group.
The third phase of inoculation, for people between 18 and 45 years of age, is set to begin on 1 May. Earlier in April, the Centre modified its vaccination policy and asked state governments and private buyers to procure their own vaccine doses at prices decided by the manufacturers Bharati Biotech and Serum Institute of India.
On Thursday, states flagged the shortage of vaccines and said that they might not be able to adhere to the 1 May schedule.
This, on a day that India saw a record single-day rise of 3,79,257 new coronavirus infections, pushing the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,83,76,524, while active cases crossed the 30 lakh, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Thursday.
The toll increased to 2,04,832 with a record rise of 3,645 new deaths, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The Delhi and Madras high courts pulled up the Centre over the shortage of medical supply and about its handling of the second wave of the pandemic on Thursday.
While the Delhi High Court questioned the Centre over why other states were given more oxygen than they asked for while Delhi was given less, a division bench of Madras High Court comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy asked what the Centre has been doing over the past 14 months.
“All that you are showing that things will be hunky-dory in June… Did they (Centre) consult experts? … All that we see here is that ‘June it will be better’.. we are all depending on chance, without doing anything,” Chief Justice Banerjee stated, as per Bar and Bench.
States like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh tightened the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 cases.
On a day when Uttar Pradesh recorded a single-day rise of 298 COVID-19 deaths, the Yogi Adityanath government extended the ongoing weekend lockdown to include Mondays. The restrictions will now be in place from Friday night to 7 am on Tuesday.
The Maharashtra government also extended the existing lockdown-like restrictions till 15 May to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
Days ahead of the next phase, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech cut the cost of its COVID-19 vaccine ‘Covaxin’ from Rs 600 to Rs 400 per dose for state governments. The move comes a day after another vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India which manufactures ‘Covishield’, also reduced its prices per dose for state governments.
While the Centre is facing criticism from Indian healthcare experts and activists, Facebook on Thursday blocked posts tagged ‘#ResignModi’ but restored it hours later. The blocking on Wednesday, Facebook said, wasn’t at the behest of the government.
Facebook isn’t the first social media company to censure posts critical of government handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Twitter had removed or restricted access to several critical posts on orders from the government, which called it fake news.
“We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.
May miss 1 May vaccination date, say states
The government of Delhi, one of the worst COVID-hit cities in the country, said the city “does not have vaccines” for the third phase and purchase orders have been placed with the manufacturers.
Later, officials were quoted by PTI as saying that Delhi will procure 67 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine from Serum Institute and the first tranche of three lakh doses will be delivered by 3 May.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh are among the states which have already raised the issue of vaccine shortage even for the ongoing inoculation drive for those above 45 years of age.
On Thursday, Odisha confirmed a shortage of vaccines and suspended vaccination in five districts. Officials said that they are unable to give the second dose to those aged 45 and above.
However, denying that there was any shortage of vaccine, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday said more than 1 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses are still available with states and UTs and they will receive over 20 lakh more doses within the next three days.
The ministry also said the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country was over 15 crore so far.
As per reports, Serum Institute’s current manufacturing capacity is 6-7 crore doses per month while Bharat Biotech made around 2 crore doses in April as against 1.5 crore doses in March.
Claiming that the shortage of COVID-19 jabs may disrupt plans to immunise all adults from 1 May, several states, including Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana have said the process to vaccinate people in the 18-44 age group will begin once they get a substantial number of vaccines from pharmaceutical companies.
Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the vaccination drive for all above 18 years in the state may get delayed as there were not enough doses of the COVID vaccine. “We are not getting adequate doses of vaccines. That is why we are facing problems. We have staff and required infrastructure for vaccination,” Sidhu told reporters.
Asked whether the state health authorities will be able to start the vaccination drive for the 18 plus age group from 1 May, the minister said, “I feel that we may not start by that time.”
The Gujarat government also raised the issue and said that it has made all the necessary arrangements for giving vaccines to those over 18 years free of cost. A statement from the government said, “The vaccination process will start once the state receives substantial numbers of vaccine doses from pharma companies.”
The city is witnessing long queues of those above 45 years of age at vaccination centres, and a senior official indicated that the 1 May drive may not start due to the shortage of doses.
“We were told on Wednesday night that we would get around 75,000 vials of vaccine. With such a low supply, the BMC opened only some vaccination centres while others were kept closed,” said Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
In Telangana, a senior official said though the state government is in touch with vaccine manufacturers, there is no certainty on when the stocks would be available for the mass vaccination.
“We are in touch with the manufacturers also. We are in search of the vaccine. We require around four crore doses,” Telangana Public Health Director G Srinivasa Rao told PTI.
In Andhra Pradesh too, the government said that inoculation may not start on 1 May due to delay in procurement of vaccine from manufacturers. The state government has already written to the manufacturers for vaccine supplies and yet to get confirmation from them, the official added.
An official release from Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s office said as per the availability of stocks, the complete vaccination process for the age group (18 to 44 years) in the country will not be completed until January next year.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also claimed that Jammu and Kashmir is facing a shortage of the vaccine.
Vaccines aren’t available anywhere so it’s quite pointless asking people to amplify the benefits of getting vaccinated. https://t.co/DYFSj6RhaG
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) April 29, 2021
India receives more medical supplies
More medical supplies from the international community arrived in India on Thursday as the country battles a devastating second wave of coronavirus pandemic that has stretched its healthcare infrastructure to its limit amid surging cases.
The leading countries which are sending assistance to India include the US, Russia, France, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Singapore, Portugal, Sweden, New Zealand, Kuwait and Mauritius.
Early morning, Russia delivered 20 tonnes of supplies mainly comprising oxygen concentrators, ventilators and medicines.
The medical supplies were brought to Delhi in two transport aircraft operated by Russia’s EMERCOM, a state-run agency overseeing civil emergency services.
“Two urgent flights operated by the Russian EMERCOM arrived today which brought a cargo with a total weight of 20 tonnes. These are oxygen concentrators, lung ventilation equipment, monitors, medicines, including coronavirus , and other essential pharmaceutical items,” Russian Ambassador Nikolay Kudashev said.
A consignment of 120 oxygen concentrators also arrived early this morning from the UK.
The United Arab Emirates too delivered a consignment of medical supplies that included 157 ventilators and 480 BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure) machines among others.
The Romanian embassy said an aircraft carrying 80 oxygen concentrators, 75 oxygen cylinders and 20 high flow oxygen therapy equipment took off in the afternoon of Wednesday from Bucharest and will arrive tonight in Delhi.
“The medical field is one of the main domains of cooperation, with special relevance in moments of crisis, as the one we are facing now,” said Romanian Ambassador to India Daniela Sezonov Tane.
At a media briefing, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said three special flights from the US are expected to bring large medical supplies including oxygen generating equipment and oxygen concentrators. Two flights are expected to arrive on Friday while the third one is set to come on 3 May.
In a release, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said it is rapidly mobilising assistance to save lives, stop the spread of COVID-19 , and meet the urgent health needs of the Indian people.
“Today, the United States deployed the first of several emergency COVID-19 relief shipments to India. Arriving in New Delhi from Travis Air Force base on the world’s largest military aircraft, the shipment includes 440 oxygen cylinders and regulators, generously donated by the State of California,” it said.
“In addition, on this first flight, USAID will send 9,60,000 Rapid Diagnostic Tests to identify infections early to help prevent the community spread of COVID-19 , and 1,00,000 N95 masks to protect India’s frontline healthcare heroes,” it said.
The USAID further said it has provided over $23 million in assistance since the start of the pandemic, directly reaching nearly 10 million Indians. “USAID is quickly procuring 1,000 medical oxygen concentrators that will be used in 320 primary health care facilities,” it added.
Officials said Ireland’s medical supplies comprising 700 oxygen concentrators, one oxygen generator and 365 ventilators are arriving tonight.
COVID-19 caseload details
Registering a steady increase, the active cases have increased to 30,84,814, comprising 16.79 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has further dropped to 82.10 percent.
According to the ICMR, 28,44,71,979 samples have been tested up to 28 April with 17,68,190 samples being tested on Wednesday.
The 3,645 new fatalities include 1,035 from Maharashtra, 368 from Delhi, 279 from Chhattisgarh,265 from Uttar Pradesh, 229 from Karnataka, 174 from Gujarat, 149 from Jharkhand,142 from Punjab,120 from Rajasthan, 108 from Uttarakhand and 105 from Madhya Pradesh.
A total of 2,04,832 deaths have been reported so far in the country including 67,214 from Maharashtra, 15,377 from Delhi, 15,036 from Karnataka, 13,826 from Tamil Nadu, 11,943 from Uttar Pradesh, 11,159 from West Bengal, 8,772 from Punjab and 8,061 from Chhattisgarh.