BENGALURU: Though it was expected that with the third wave, demand for Covid vaccines will increase, private hospitals find themselves with a soon-to-expire or expired stock of vaccines, which they have to discard. The same problem was seen post the second Covid wave, with demand for vaccines falling short compared to supply.
At Mallige Hospital, a few hundred doses of Covishield expired on February 17. “We have 3,000 doses of Covishield left, which will expire in June or July this year. There has been no demand for Covaxin, and we gave up supply long ago. Either most people have already taken both doses, or those who are eligible for the booster dose have to wait for the nine-month gap between doses. This is causing vaccine stock to lie unused,” said Vikram Sreeram, Managing Director of Mallige Hospital.
With people not coming forward to get jabbed, manufacturing companies are not ready to take back unused vaccine stock from hospitals, leading to wastage, pointed out Dr. R Ravindra, Medical Director of Suguna Hospital and past president of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association.
“There is hardly any demand for vaccines. Even vials of Covaxin, which were revalidated by the company, are expiring in either March or May. In our hospital, around 700 doses each of Covishield and Covaxin are waiting to be used. The former expires in March. To cut down on wastage, we used up our own stock by giving booster doses to healthcare workers of our hospital, for free,” Dr. Ravindra added.
Sreeram suggested that booster doses be opened up to other age groups. In addition, his hospital is receiving requests from families of children below 15 years who need to travel abroad to countries where a vaccine certificate is mandatory. However, as current Indian government regulations permit vaccination for only those 15 years and above, the hospital is unable to administer the available doses.
Arundhathi Chandrashekar, Managing Director, National Health Mission, said at the district level, the exchange is being permitted between private hospitals and the government. “If the district administration is confident of using up vaccine stock, they can exchange their vaccine doses which have a longer shelf life with those of private hospitals that are soon to expire. This is done with the approval of the state government. The same number of vaccine doses are exchanged and utilised immediately by government centres,” Arundhathi said.
Of the total target second dose coverage, including 4.89 crore (4,89,16,000) adults aged 18 years and above, as well as 31.75 lakh children aged between 15 and 17 years, Karnataka has covered 4.64 crore (4,64,09,750) beneficiaries.
Of the target of 21 lakh beneficiaries eligible for the booster doses, 11 lakh (11,24,096) beneficiaries have received the third dose.