TN's Covid vaccination drive pace hit by short supply

Even as Tamil Nadu successfully conducted mega vaccination camps against Covid-19 in September, administering 1.08 crore doses in just 20 days,
Covishield vaccine (L) and Covaxin (R) (Photos | EPS)
Covishield vaccine (L) and Covaxin (R) (Photos | EPS)

CHENNAI: Even as Tamil Nadu successfully conducted mega vaccination camps against Covid-19 in September, administering 1.08 crore doses in just 20 days, supply constraints have put brakes on the drive. With the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), on August 30, saying the rise in cases in a few States indicated signs of a third wave, Health Minister Ma Subramanian on Tuesday said the vaccination efforts had ground to a halt since Monday due to a shortage of doses.

For this reason, the minister sharply differed with Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya’s announcement of resuming export of vaccines from October, saying the latter should first vaccinate the entire eligible population in the country before thinking of exporting vaccines.

The rate of inoculation in the State, too, remains a point of concern. According to data from the Union Ministry of Health, as of September 21, Tamil Nadu has administered the second dose of Covid vaccines to nearly 93.59 lakh people (about 15 per cent of its total 6.06 crore eligible population), compared to the national average that stands at around 20 per cent.

TN only large State to vaccinate fewer than 1 crore people with second dose

The data shows TN is the only State to have a coverage of less than one crore people in administering the second dose, compared to other similarly populated States, such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka. However, TN’s poor performance could primarily be attributed to the low vaccine supply it faced in the initial stages.

Since May, TN has maintained an almost 100 per cent supply-to-usage conversion, and in some cases, it has extracted more doses. With the 27.32 lakh doses supplied in May, the State inoculated nearly 30.78 lakh people. Similarly in June, about 52.71 lakh doses were supplied but 57 lakh were vaccinated. However, in July and August, the coverage fell slightly.

Officials said, as large drives were conducted in several places, a nominal amount could have been wasted as vials may have been opened although there weren’t enough takers. Meanwhile, the monthly supply, too, rose but not proportion to the population. Cumulatively, from January to August, TN administered 3.05 crore doses.

A senior health official said, “There is a shortage in production and a delay in quality checks. Central officials said it will be addressed in two days.” Due to the delay, it is doubtful if another mega vaccination camp would be held in the coming weeks, the official said. “We need five lakh doses to conduct daily camps,” he added. Virologist Dr. Jacob John said only a few states like Kerala were vaccinating more than the national average and TN needed to pick up.

“Supply constraints are a worry. This is when we need to vaccinate the vulnerable as schools have reopened. There should be 100 per cent coverage of teachers, senior citizens, and parents.”

‘Need seven crore more vax for TN’
Health Minister Ma Subramanian, reacting to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya’s statement that India would start exporting vaccines from October, said the Union government should first vaccinate all eligible people in India. He pointed out that vaccination drives in TN were affected on Monday and Tuesday, owing to shortage of doses. “Eligible population to be vaccinated in Tamil Nadu is 6.06 crore, and so far we have vaccinated 4.37 crore people. So, we need over seven crore more vaccines for the State,” said the minister

Second dose coverage
◆ India: 20.89 cr
◆ TN: 93.59 lakh
◆ Gujarat: 1.69 cr
◆ West Bengal: 1.49 cr
◆ Karnataka: 1.47 cr
◆ Rajasthan: 1.43 cr
◆ Madhya Pradesh: 1.27 cr

(*As of September 21)

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