MUMBAI: Due to acute shortage of COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided to suspend the drive to vaccinate those in the age group of 18 to 44 and divert the available stock for the above-45 years category, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.
The decision was taken during the state cabinet meeting, he told reporters here.
The minister also claimed that the Serum Institute of India (SII) has informed the Maharashtra government that it would be able to provide 1.5 crore Covishield vaccine doses to the state only from May 20.
"There is no sufficient supply of vaccine vials by the Centre for inoculation of above-45 age group people. Hence, the state cabinet decided to divert the stock, purchased for the 18-44 age group, for the above-45 age group," he said.
While Covishield vaccine is manufactured by Pune-based SII, Covaxin is produced by Bharat Biotech.
"Adar Poonawalla of SII informed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray about SII's ability to supply around 1.5 crore vials of Covishield from May 20. Once we receive that supply, we will resume the vaccination of 18-44 age group," the minister said.
On Tuesday, Tope had alleged that the Union government was not fulfilling its responsibility to provide adequate number of vaccine doses to states.
"There are some 20 lakh people who have not received their second dose of vaccine. As per the scientific advisory, we can not delay their inoculation further, hence we decided to suspend the inoculation of 18-44 age group," he said.
Some 16 lakh persons are waiting to get second jab of Covishield while the rest are to get a second dose of Covaxin.
To meet this requirement of the above 45 group, around 10 lakh vials meant for the 18-44 age group will be diverted.
Asked about Maharashtra's plans to purchase vaccines from the global market, Tope said, "The vaccines have to be approved by the Union government for their distribution here.
The Union government has to first take that decision, then only a state can purchase vaccines from the global market.
Vaccines of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson and Johnson require lower storage temperatures.
Covishield and Covaxin vials can be stored at 2-8 degree Celsius, but other vaccines need temperature below zero, the minister noted.