BENGALURU: Karnataka has vaccine stocks that will suffice only for the next four days, according to highly placed sources in the Department of Health and Family Welfare. While on the one hand, experts are suggesting speeding up the vaccination rollout to ensure that the impact of the second wave is minimised in the state, on the other, the Central Government has reportedly asked the state to wait for another two weeks for the vaccines to reach.
“In our stockpile, we have vaccines (mainly Covishield) which can suffice only for the next four days. But this won’t affect any vaccine rollout programmes. We have asked for fresh stock and it will arrive soon,” said an official from the Health Ministry on condition of anonymity. Health and Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar told TNIE, “We are in talks with the Central Government for more vaccines. We are expecting the vaccines to arrive soon. There is no reason to be worried.”
Karnataka has so far vaccinated 11,73,848 beneficiaries aged above 60 and 3,09,660 beneficiaries aged above 45 with certain comorbidities with the first dose. Many are now awaiting their second dose, which will be administered from April 1. Fortunately for those awaiting the second dose, the shortage in vaccine stocks comes at a time when the Union Health Ministry, based on scientific evidence, declared that the efficacy of Covishield is higher if the second dose is taken after six to eight weeks.
With this, doctors now feel that the vaccines may reach the state in time for people to take their second dose. “However, if there is any kind of shortage, it needs to be rectified as it will slow down the vaccination process, which is not a good thing to happen at a time when the second wave is in on and cases are increasing in the state,” said a senior doctor from a government hospital.
Union govt must make more vaccines available: Experts
Acc ording to experts, to have a sustained campaign of 10 million doses per day, India will need to have a reasonable stockpile and production line of vaccines. They argue that the Central Government should now also approve other vaccines that are internationally available with established efficacy and safety levels. “The Centre can approve them under Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA ). Bridge studies can be done while vaccines are rolled out under the EUA before access to the market.
The government may proactively seek supplies from other manufacturers while rapid studies can assess safety and immunogenicity in the Indian context,” said Dr Giridhara R Babu, senior epidemiologist and member of the Technical Advisory Committee for Covid-19. While the vaccine programme in India has so far focused on those aged over 60 and those over 45 with comorbidities, besides health workers and frontline Covid warriors, the Union Government is said to be considering whether it needs to stock more vaccines to expand its programme.
Many states, including Karnataka, had sought from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to relax the age limit for vaccination. Karnataka’s TAC had suggested that any person who is 18 years and above should be permitted to get any vaccine approved by the Centre, and also demanded the removal of restrictive criteria of medical certification of comorbidity, vaccine availability at any designated place, and at a price regulated by the government. The committee is of the view that this will help scale up vaccination in the workplace settings across India.
However, the Centre rejected an expansion of vaccination centres as it was determined that such locations like old-age homes, apartment complexes, etc., lacked adequate space for vaccination such as waiting room area, vaccination room and observation room, besides adequate cold storage facilities. The Centre cited “lack of logistics” as the reason. Meanwhile, Dr Anant Bhan, a bioethics researcher who is closely following vaccine-related research and development, said, “The Centre has not agreed to vaccinate all, probably due to shortage of vaccines. They may be wanting to first cover those at risk as per the priority list. Then, they will open up sequentially.”