MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government said on Wednesday that journalists can be extended the facility of inoculation on priority only when the state gets a sufficient stock of vaccine doses.
Earlier in the day, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis supported the demand that journalists be considered frontline workers and vaccinated on priority.
Asked about the demand, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said, "There is no sufficient stock of vaccine doses and the available stock is going to be used for the above-45 age group because their inoculation can not be delayed further.
"We are being told that over one crore Covishield vials would be available from May 20 onwards.
If we get vials in such a large quantity, we can discuss the proposal of vaccinating journalists under the frontline workers category," he told reporters.
On allowing journalists to travel by local trains in Mumbai, he said, "I do not think the current strict restrictions are going to be eased even after May 15. But we will have to wait for the actual decision."
Fadnavis demanded in a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray that journalists, photographers and camerapersons be included in the frontline workers category to get them inoculated against coronavirus.
At least 12 states in the country have taken this step, the BJP leader said.
Several media persons have succumbed to COVID-19 in the first and second waves of the pandemic, he said.
The state government on Wednesday decided to temporarily suspend its drive to vaccinate people in the age group of 18 to 44 and divert the available stock of doses for the above-45 age group, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.
This decision was taken during the state cabinet meeting.
The minister also revealed that the Serum Institute of India (SII) has informed the Maharashtra government that it would be able to provide 1.5 crore Covishield vaccines to the state only May 20 onwards.
"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. Therefore, we are suspending the inoculation of 18-44age group for some period," Tope said.
While Covishield vaccine is manufactured by Pune-based SII, Covaxin is produced by Bharat Biotech.
"Adar Poonawalla of SII has informed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray of his ability to supply around 1.5 crore vials of Covishield from May 20 onwards. Once we receive the 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.
the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Wednesday floated a global expression of interest (EoI) for procurement of one crore doses to expedite the vaccination process, a civic official said.
The interested parties will have to submit their expression of interest before 1 pm on May 18 and they will be opened on the same day at 3 pm, the official said.
Due to the shortage of vaccines, the vaccination drive in the city has been badly hit since the last one month.
The civic body was even forced to suspend the drive for a few days and keep many of the nearly 175 centres shut from the last few days due to unavailability of doses.
The official said that the company will have to supply all the vaccines within three weeks from the day work order is issued.
COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, their Indian partners, wholesalers of manufacturers, authorised distributors of manufacturers can participate in the tendering process, the EoI said.
"The applicant should not belong to the countries sharing borders with India," the tender reads.
It further states that the applicant should have a valid licence to manufacture or export COVID-19 vaccines to India from the competent authority, and/or Food and Drug Administration of Government of India.
The vaccine should be as per the guidelines issued by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), and should have DCGI approval for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in Indian territory, it added.
As per the conditions mentioned in the EoI,the supplier of vaccines will have to provide the required storage facility for COVID-19 vaccine till the vaccination points.
The BMC, the country's richest civic body, also kept the rights to call all those eligible firms that are willing to match the lowest (L-1) rates, reserved with itself, besidesthe right to decide the number of suppliers to be given the purchase orders depending upon the requirement of the vaccines.
As per the EoI, the BMC currently has 20 hospitals and 240 vaccination centres.