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Shortage of vaccines observed in many states; Center denies

Alok Parekh

Some states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra and Odisha, have complained of a shortage of vaccines during a second wave that has forced some centers to turn away people. Only those aged over 45 are being immunized.

On Wednesday, April 7, India reported a record 115,736 new COVID-19 cases, a 13-fold increase in just over two months, raising pressure on the government to expand its vaccination campaign. Some states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra and Odisha, have complained of a shortage of vaccines during a second wave that has forced some centers to turn away people. Only those aged over 45 are being immunized.

"Vaccination centers have to close early due to a shortage of supplies," the western state's health minister, Rajesh Tope, stated. He further added that stocks would run out in three days after the daily injection of over 450,000 doses. India's health minister said the complaints, mostly from states not ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, were attempts to cover up their failures and spread panic. "Vaccine supplies are being monitored on a real-time basis, and state governments are being apprised regularly about it," Harsh Vardhan said in a statement. "Allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless. To requests from states to widen the immunization drive to include more adults, he said: "So long as the supply of vaccines remains limited, there is no option but to prioritize." Maharashtra has for weeks accounted for over half India's daily new cases, which on Monday passed 100,000 for the first time. The government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as shops and offices reopen. Maharashtra has urged the government to expand vaccinations to younger people and to divert medical oxygen from other regions, Tope said.

Responding to Maharashtra's concerns over COVID-19 vaccine shortage, Centre has decided to send more 17 lakh dosages of the vaccine instead of 7.3 lakh that had been decided earlier. Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that it was really unfair that Maharashtra was receiving such less dosages of vaccine when other states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have been getting over 20 lakh doses.

Maharashtra and Odisha reportedly had to shut down 109 and 700 vaccination centres, respectively, after facing a shortage of vaccines.

Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab, and Karnataka states have in recent days imposed new curbs, including night curfews in some places. The federal government has refused to impose any national lockdown. The previous one last year devastated the economy and left millions penniless.

 

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