States rush to float global vaccine bids

India’s plan to immunize all adults is unravelling as a crippling shortage of covid vaccines prompted states to divert jabs for inoculating those between 18 to 44 to people who are 45 years or older, even as some states made desperate bids to secure supplies directly from foreign manufacturers.

Several state governments, including Telangana, Delhi and Karnataka, on Tuesday, said they planned to float global tenders to procure shots as supplies ran short. Maharashtra was the first to express such a desire.

“While we explore possibilities of globally procuring vaccines and also increasing vaccination centres to have one in every municipal ward, the road map for administering the second shot for every age group will be published soon,” tweeted Aaditya Thackeray, Maharashtra’s minister of tourism and environment.

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Maharashtra on Tuesday said it is diverting covid-19 vaccines procured for inoculating those between the age of 18 and 44 to give a second dose to 45-plus beneficiaries.

“The decision has been taken in the wake of the short supply of vaccines for 45-plus beneficiaries by the central government,” Rajesh Tope, the state’s health minister, said, adding that the efficacy of the vaccine is affected if the second dose is not administered within the stipulated period.

Vaccination of all adults, which started on 1 May, is a crucial part of India’s strategy to combat the pandemic, but lack of planning has left the country with an acute shortage of vaccines even as covid infections have surged to record levels, forcing hospitals to turn away critically ill patients for lack of beds and oxygen.

Delhi, which ran out of Covaxin stock for the 18-44 age group, will shut over 125 vaccination centres after Tuesday evening, news agency PTI reported, citing Atishi, legislator from the state’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party.

The central government on Tuesday also advised states to prioritize beneficiaries who are due for their second dose of covid-19 vaccine and dedicate a minimum of 70% of the allocated vaccines from the Centre for the second dose.

“This, however, is indicative. States have the liberty to enhance this to as much as 100%. State-wise numbers on CoWin have been shared with states for their planning purposes,” said Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

Over 2.1 million people above the age of 45 are due for their second dose in Maharashtra, with 1.6 million to be administered a second dose of the Covishield vaccine. About 35,000 doses of Covaxin are available in the state.

Karnataka said it will procure 20 million covid-19 vaccine doses through a global tender to meet demand.

The state has already placed an order for 30 million vaccine doses, including 10 million Covaxin and 20 million Covishield doses.

Telangana and Delhi also said that they would float a global tender for procuring vaccines to inoculate the entire population of the states.

The central government has so far supplied more than 180 million doses to states. Of this, 171 million doses have been used, according to official data as of 8am Tuesday. About 9 million covid vaccine doses are still available with the states, the data showed. Furthermore, more than 729,610 vaccine doses will be supplied to the states within three days, central government data showed.

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