BENGALURU: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the opening up of Covid-19 vaccination for citizens between the ages 18 and 44 starting May 1, lakhs of people in that age group have been registering on the CoWIN app since Wednesday. However, Karnataka may start vaccinating citizens in that age group only towards the later part of May second week or early part of May third week.
With a severe backlog of orders and demands from multiple states other than their prior commitment to the Union Government, vaccine manufacturers may be able to deliver the first batch of vaccines, independently being procured by Karnataka, only by mid-May.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, in a statement on Thursday, said the fourth phase of the vaccination drive will be taken up “in stages”. With crores of citizens who have registered for the vaccination raising complaints about not finding slots or centres to schedule their jabs, the CM said the drive will begin as and when vaccine stocks are made available.
“The State Government is procuring one crore doses of vaccine. Work order has been placed to procure an additional one crore doses of vaccine. The fourth phase of the vaccination drive will be taken up in stages. Pharmaceutical companies are enhancing their production capacity to meet the increased demand. A third vaccine option is also being introduced. Under these circumstances, the vaccination drive will continue based on the availability of vaccines.
The drive will be planned to ensure systematic, disciplined and smooth implementation,” Yediyurappa said in the statement. The CM, however, refused to set a timeline on deliveries of the vaccines that have already been ordered as well as the date on which the government will roll out the fourth phase. Meanwhile, sources in the government suggest that Karnataka may receive its first batch of the one crores doses of Covishield vaccines from Serum Institute in Pune only in the second week of May.
Will look into cases of vax shortages: Official
But they refrain from announcing it to the beneficiaries for fear of losing them to some other private medical centre which is administering the vaccines. However, almost all of them are facing shortages. The problem is this: As per new government rules, private hospitals will have to get vaccine supplies from manufacturers, unlike in the first three phases wherein the State Government provided them with the doses. But government hospitals are receiving the vaccine supplies as earlier and have sufficient stocks as the government is ensuring supplies to them.
Chief Secretary P Ravi Kumar even said that those who are denied vaccination in private hospitals can approach government hospitals or centres and take the vaccine so that they are not affected by delays in taking the second dose. Health Commissioner Thrilok Chandra told The New Indian Express that there are five lakh doses with the government and based on demand, supplies are being made. He also pointed out that whatever supplies they get is sent to hospitals and vaccination centres.
He, however, promised to look into cases where vaccination centres are complaining of shortages. Dr Naresh Shetty from M S Ramaiah Memorial Hospital pointed out that there is a huge demand for vaccination from the onset of the second wave. “It is going to be difficult to start on time. So far, the government gave the vaccines and it was easy, but now the situation is not the same. We are unsure what needs to be done and are waiting for some changes to happen.
There is a huge demand for vaccination now and we need to be ready to inoculate many.” But it is not that easy for the government hospitals too. They are functioning on scarce supplies and hope the situation improves before the next phase starts. “Right now, we are just getting vaccines on a daily basis. Earlier, we used to get a stock and store it. We have more than 300 people coming in daily and the stocks we get is less than half, which is proving to be a problem.
If the vaccine supply is not addressed, it is going to be difficult to manage the crowds,” said a senior doctor from KC General Hospital in Malleswaram, a major vaccination centre. Among the citizenry, however, there is a lot of concern. “I got a message from the hospital to reschedule my vaccination, which was due on April 29. The hospital asked me to come some other day. They did not give me reasons. I needed to get my second dose and it is the need of the hour. So now, I will approach a government hospital or a public health centre to take the vaccine,” said Vishwanath L, a 72-year-old beneficiary, who is worried about crossing the eight weeks’ interval after the first dose.