Why is India Facing a Vaccine Shortage?
I want to talk to you about something which is extremely important a very very complex issue but i’m going to try and simplify it for you there is so much conversation happening about vaccine shortage and it needs to be put into perspective firstly let’s talk about the reality there is currently at many many vaccine centers a shortage of vaccines in several of the states we’ve got throughout the weekend in mumbai all private vaccination centers have been shut down we’ve even visited vaccine centers the last week in ghaziabad in noida which don’t have any vaccines have completely suspended the exercise orisa which is also not specifically in opposition governed state has raised this issue of shortages as well maharashtra and several other states there is this whole narrative that is being built that it’s only about the opposition government states but it’s not because we’ve got reports even from uttar pradesh to show the same so the ground reality does tell us that either the states are running on very low stocks which will run out in one or two days so even if they want to ramp up their vaccination they are unable to do so now why is it uh that we’ve reached this place.
Well what has happened in the last few days is on april 1st we opened up our vaccination to people above the age of 45 and everybody not just those with co-morbidities the states also went into a faster higher speed of vaccination they opened more centers some of them made their centers 24 7 and the entire energy was to vaccinate as many people as we can now what has happened is so far uh states were getting weekly doses now it seems that some of them like chhattisgarh are actually getting doses uh almost daily from the center and they don’t have a long-term clarity as to how many doses will they be getting in a week or in a month’s time so it’s becoming difficult for them to even plan for vaccination distribution at a state level you need to plan it out which are your worst hit parts which are the parts of the larger population which is eligible which are the parts which are highly dense and must be targeted first your hot spots but the states are now struggling to do this because they’re getting doses on a very very short period basis for example maharashtra was told that they will get 17 lakh doses in the next round but only four and a half black doses actually landed in the first tranche now when will the next come we don’t know four and a half black doses for maharashtra is essentially just a couple of days actually less than that in terms of vaccination because maharashtra was actually clocking four to five lakh vaccination shots every single day this is where this whole thing has actually started.
Now let’s talk about what really went wrong why are we in this position i don’t think there is any denying the fact that states are running low on vaccines they’ve been giving smaller chunks now because there’s they have sped up their vaccination what really went wrong if you look at the pace of vaccination say in mid-march or even second week of march uh and the first week of april it’s almost doubled nationally in some of these states the pace of vaccination has gone up three times four times which is how we’ve managed to vaccinate nine crore people so far since january now we since the month of april started since first april when vaccination opened to more people we have been on an average vaccinating 33 lakh every day 33 lakh doses every day there are days when we’ve even touched 46 lakh doses every day which essentially means that if you go at this space of 33 lakh an average even at this space you will need about 9.9 crore almost 10 crore doses for one month if you do 50 lakh a day which is where we were hitting which is what was the target by all of the central exports that we’ve been speaking to by the central authorities as well if 50 lakh per day was the target that means that we would need about 15 crore doses for a month we currently only have four and a half crore doses in the pipeline as per central government’s own admission four and a half crores in the pipeline at just the current pace which is now slowed down in the last couple of days will only last us 13 days that is what it is.
When states are asking for more and more the minute they start ramping up their vaccination and they want more this stock won’t even last 13 days it may barely last us a week 10 days depending on our speed which is why you are now seeing in some of the states that they have short few of the vaccine centers which is why probably we were a little apprehensive on alloying a lot of fresh registrations for frontline workers which is why now there is also a larger push to tell everybody that for Covi shield rather than waiting for four weeks and getting your second dose you should wait 8 to 12 weeks because that’s the ideal time so we are also trying to elongate that gap all of this is only pointing towards one thing that we don’t have enough doses to match up with our speed it’s a supply demand problem now people would say of course that’s going to be a problem obviously we will not have enough doses for everybody in this country overnight then why did we go ahead with this plan did we not do this math when we decided to open it up to everybody above the age of 45 make 50 lakh shots our target and push everybody to get to that target now let me tell you the supply side this is all about the demand and what’s happening in the distribution on the supply side we didn’t rush to pre-book we didn’t move quickly enough to sign our agreements with the vaccine makers we waited until everything was approved until the price was negotiated to our liking and then we signed the agreements for those doses by then the whole world had struck their agreement struck their packs inc with vaccine makers many of whom are obviously making these vaccines in our country we are the vaccine hub so there we went a little slowly then currently we are looking at about six and a half crore vaccines being manufactured per month for us for india six and a half crore serum says they may be able to take it to 11 crore by june but we are in the month of april so that’s the other trouble if if you remember i just told you that at base of 33 lakh vaccinations per day we need 9.9 crore for a month if we do 50 lakh a day we need 15 crore a month we are only manufacturing six and a half crore a month right now so we can’t really match this demand.
what else can be done if serum can’t ramp it up before June well we have to look at other options there was a hope and understanding that four of the other vaccine candidates by summers would have made it to the markets or would have gotten their approvals and had started manufacturing but that’s not happened those vaccine candidates including zaider scandal haven’t yet worked out or gotten their approval sputnik has applied but there also the approval hasn’t come in from the government it’s unclear on where it’s exactly stuck.
Some experts say it could be uh because there’s a disagreement on pricing we don’t know the government is yet to tell us where exactly is it stuck but we are hoping that the sputnik of approval can come in soon those trials were conducted in our country in partnership with dr reddy’s lab and can then quickly be given to more people in our country so our hope is that johnson johnson that’s just applied for trials in India is also able to bring their vaccines into the market but none of that is going to happen in the next one month and the next one month is what is going to be extremely crucial we don’t have enough doses to match the pace of vaccination that we are looking at the government state governments may have to look at an option beyond shutting down some vaccination centers where they say okay let’s pause and let’s only give it to the most vulnerable again the elderly and to those who need their second dose central government.
May even look at now officially saying that let the gap be eight to twelve weeks and not four weeks thereby you will delay the people who are coming for their second doors a little later that’s exactly what several of the international countries have done and this is the reason why they did it even in united kingdom they said eight to 12 weeks because this would give them more time to give the first dose to a larger number of people these are all options on the table and i think at some point the center and the states will have to get together and look at these options and and prioritize your vaccines for the most vulnerable in the worst hit districts of our country this can’t be about politics it can’t be about giving more vaccines uh to states which are governed by bjp versus lesser vaccines to states which are governed by opposition it also can’t be an excuse for the state governments to not implement the covet rules you have to ensure people wear masks people sanitize themselves people are penalized for not following covet appropriate behavior because and you have to ensure you test and you track these still need to go on you cannot not do this look at the rising number of cases and then start asking for more and more and more vaccines because we don’t have those many vaccines that’s not going to be a solution but viewers all of this can only happen provided we first admit that there is a shortage of vaccines that we need to relook at our vaccine distribution policy.