DEHRADUN/SRINAGAR/GUWAHATI/RANCHI: Amid short supply of COVID vaccines, states are struggling to keep the immunisation drive going. After increasing the gap between the first and second doses and halting the drive till the supplies are augmented, now some states are diverting the doses meant for the 45-plus population to the 18-45 age group.
The Odisha government a week ago announced to divert Covaxin stock meant for 45-plus people for inoculating those in the 18-45 age group as it found that more in the latter category were queuing up to get the jabs. Other states, however, are not so forthcoming even as data reveals that vaccines were diverted to inoculate the younger population.
In Uttarakhand, health department officials said 1.5 lakh doses were diverted from the 45-plus quota as supply for the 18-45 age-group had dried up.
They hastened to add that the diversion had now stopped as ample stock was available, but refused to share the data citing the new guidelines issued by the Centre barring states from revealing information on stocks.
The inoculation drive for the 18-plus category received a major setback in Uttarakhand as most of the vaccination centres were shut for at least a week because of the paucity of jabs.
In Jammu and Kashmir, 4.50 lakh vaccine doses had been procured for the 18-45 age group till June 11, while 6.02 lakh people in this category had received the jabs. When asked if 1.5 additional doses administered to the younger population could have been diverted from the stock meant for the 45-plus group, Immunization Officer Dr Shahid denied that and said that vaccine diversion was not possible without the consent of the Union Health Ministry.
Another health official said the gap was because hundreds of healthcare and frontline workers who had been vaccinated fell in the 18-45 age group.
In Assam, 6,77,520 doses had been procured for the 18-44 group while the number of doses administered in this category stood at 10,39,740. Official sources said the difference of 3,62,220 was on account of frontline and health workers as well as those deployed for election duty being administered the jabs irrespective of their age.
For the 45-plus category, 42,11,310 doses were received from the Centre while the number of doses administered was only 33,46,604. "Some districts were reporting a lot of cases. As per the chief minister's directive, 88,300 Covishield doses supplied by the Centre were given to these districts to vaccinate the 18-44 group," said an official. The vaccine had been "loaned" to these districts and they will return the vaccines when they have sufficient stock, he added.
In Jharkhand, too, officials in the health department said since there was a scarcity of vaccines for the 18-44 group, they were 'borrowing' it from the quota provided by the Centre for the 45-plus category as and when required. So far, 2.10 lakh doses had been borrowed, they said.