As of 1 May 2021, India began its third phase of nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive for citizens below 18-44 years of age. The countrywide vaccination drive had witnessed the highest number of vaccine registrations since the commencement of the first phase of vaccinations in January 2021 however saw a significant decline in vaccination efforts since 23 April 2021.
What led to this decline in vaccinations?
Several states have imposed lockdowns following the Coronavirus second wave in the country, this has been seen to discourage people from going to vaccination centers stemming from fears that they might run the risk of contracting the virus. Furthermore, several citizens have cited their confusion over the legality of stepping out for vaccination during the lockdown. Compounding to these issues is the lack of sufficient manpower. Medical staff appointed for vaccination drive are being shifted to COVID-19 duty in order to deal with the surge in numbers.
All these combined with the fact that several states have reported vaccine shortages have resulted in the government’s inability to carry out the nationwide vaccination drive as envisioned. While the central government has denied any shortage in the supply of vaccines, several states are turning citizens away owing to a lack of stock. The central government has been pinning the blame for the vaccine shortage on the state governments and their perceived poor resource management. The center has advised state governments to target their vaccination program in urban quarters.
Is the 3rd phase off to a rocky start?
Approximately 3.5 crore Indians between the ages of 18-44 have registered for the third phase of the vaccination drive, however only an estimated 8.5 lakh people from that age group have received their first vaccine dose. Following a slow vaccination week, the country had expected a boost in the vaccination drive from 1 May 2021. However as vaccine manufacturers face a limited capacity to supply vaccines, state governments and private medical establishments have reported shortages and are the reason behind many being unable to book a vaccination slot.
What is the government doing to resolve the issue?
The government of India continues to expect to be able to inoculate more of its youth population, while vaccine manufacturers have said that they will be able to provide adequate vaccine supply post 15 May 2021. Significantly affected states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are continuing to try to import vaccines in large numbers. The Serum Institute of India (SII) in particular has said it will provide an upwards of 11 crore vaccination doses in the coming few months. Despite the assurances from vaccine manufacturers, the sharp decline in the nation’s vaccination efforts and supply remains a major concern for the Indian government.