NEW DELHI: Only six states will be able to start vaccination for the 18 to 44 age group when the nationwide drive to inoculate the younger lot kickstarts on Saturday. All other states and Union territories have either deferred vaccination for this age group by a few days or are uncertain about starting the exercise as they are facing vaccine shortage.
Even in these six states – Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Odisha – the May 1 drive will be a ‘token’ one. In most of these states, it will be limited to just a few districts.
In Maharashtra, which is the worst affected Covid-19 state in the country, three lakh Covishield doses were distributed on Friday evening for the May 1 exercise after chief minister Uddhav Thackeray announced that everyone in the 18-44 age group will be vaccinated and the state would bear the cost of the coverage. Pune, Mumbai and Thane each got the largest share of 20,000 doses while other districts were given anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 doses each.
Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope told TOI that “we have planned to start vaccinating this age group in a small way initially as we are still short of doses”. He said that while the state needs around 12 crore doses for a population of 5.7 crore in the 18-44 age group, both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech have given in writing to the state that they could provide 13 lakh and 3.45 lakh doses, respectively, to Maharashtra in May alone.
In Uttar Pradesh, another worst affected state, the drive will start on May 1 in only seven of the total 75 districts. Health department officials said the drive will take place only in Lucknow, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Meerut and Bareilly initially.
Rajasthan will start the drive in only three of the 33 districts — Ajmer, Jaipur and Jodhpur — and was expecting three lakh vaccine doses by Friday midnight.
Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani announced that vaccination for the age group will start in 10 out of 33 districts which have the highest load of Covid-19 positive cases. He said the state was expecting 3 lakh vaccine doses on Friday night.
The Odisha government announced the start of vaccination from Saturday after it received a consignment of 1.5 lakh doses of Covaxin on Friday evening.
Chhattisgarh health minister T S Singhdeo said the government will roll out the drive from May 1, but will give priority to Antyodaya cardholders and Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). “The state will receive 1.5 lakh doses of Covaxin on Saturday afternoon. We have decided not to delay the vaccination programme and will start inoculation by (May 1) afternoon. The vaccination will continue to progress as vaccine stocks arrive,” Singhdeo said.
However, all other states have deferred the drive due to uncertainty about the stocks. Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma confirmed on Twitter that Centre had committed to provide five lakh vaccine doses for the 18-44 age group. However, considering the uncertainty about the date of arrival of the first consignment of vaccines, it is unlikely that the drive would start on May 1 as scheduled earlier, top health officials told TOI.
Telangana has stopped the vaccination drive for two days (May 1 and 2) at government centres even for people aged 45 years and above because of vaccine shortage.
Tamil Nadu is unlikely to roll out vaccination for 18-plus at its government facilities, but some private hospitals like Apollo have said that they will.
Bengal will begin the vaccination from May 5 while the inoculation for the 45-plus age group will continue in government centres. However, it will stop in private centres as they are required to return unused vaccine stocks to the state government by Friday-end.
The Karnataka government indefinitely deferred the vaccination drive for 18-44 group, which was supposed to start from Saturday, citing shortage of vaccines.