BENGALURU: The state government faces a major challenge in vaccinating an estimated 3.26 crore people in the 18-44 age-group - the largest segment of society - to protect them from COVID-19, ahead of the anticipated third wave which is expected to be more severe and peak in October-November this year.
The state will need an approximate of 6.51 crore doses of vaccines to inoculate the population in the 18-44 age group. Between May 1 and May 14, when inoculation for this segment was opened, the state vaccinated up to 1,12,373 people.
But the government has since indefinitely suspended vaccination for people of this age group at all government facilities.
According to experts, lack of Central supplies will most likely leave this age-group waiting for long to complete administration of both doses. "It is mostly by July second week that the vaccination for this age group will restart.
There is a major supply issue and the priority for the government now is to vaccinate all the 45+ population with at least one dose and finish vaccinating the second dose for those who are due," said Dr Manjunath CN, nodal officer for testing, and also member of the state COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).
Karnataka should have watched vaccine supplies: Senior doctor
A senior doctor said the Centre's announcement of vaccinating those between 18-44 years and leaving it to the discretion of the states was a faulty move.
"Everything was going on smoothly till then. We should have first kept an eye on our vaccine supplies. I feel the State Government came under pressure and got bogged down, assuming that they could 'manage' it. But it has not worked," the doctor said, requesting not to be named.
However, it is crucial to vaccinate this segment of the population as the second wave data indicates that COVID-19 no longer targets mostly the elderly.
National Indian Medical Association Standing Committee for Child Health chairman Dr Srinivasa S said, "The number of people infected and even the deaths in this age group is considerably higher during the second wave. If these people are not vaccinated before the third wave, youngsters and children are going to be the worst hit."
The State Government, according to sources, is assessing the district-wise requirements for vaccines and chalking out a detailed plan to allocate vaccines.
With 74.80 lakh people in the 18-44 age group, Bengaluru Urban has the largest population in this segment, and will be allocated 22.89 per cent of the available vaccine doses, according to the Health Department.
Other districts like Mysuru, Ballari, Dakshina Kannada, Kalaburgi will be allocated 4.88 per cent, 4.04 per cent, 3.34 per cent and 3.85 per cent of the quantum, respectively.
However, Dr Giridhara R Babu, senior epidemiologist and member of TAC, said micro planning on how to go about vaccinating this group is very important. He said that the state can take the electoral data and ensure they reach out to this segment without waiting for people to come on their own t o take vaccines.
"Sometimes, we may assume that given the impact of second wave, people will come voluntarily for vaccines. It doesn’t work like that. We have to first do away with Co-WIN, have manual registrations, use ASHA workers and ensure this population is vaccinated, and then run a checklist on whether they have had both doses. This is extremely important," he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister and State COVID Task Force Chairman Dr CN Aswath Narayan said, "Vaccination for 18-44 will be opened at the earliest after putting in place a system for registration. Vaccine manufacturing in the country is being ramped up and the government is trying to procure more vaccines through global tenders to improve the situation," he said.