Several residents of Chennai took to social media over the last week to express their angst over alleged vaccine shortage in the city which continues to report a growing number of active COVID-19 cases. The number of vaccinations, both Covishield and Covaxin administered on Sunday, reflected the shortage when the number dipped to an all-time low of 3755.
At a time when Chennai is reporting over 4,000 cases of COVID-19 in a day, 37-year-old Niranjan, a resident of Ashok Nagar, was forced to visit at least four health centres to enquire about the availability of Covaxin for his 58-year-old mother.
"She was supposed to get her second dose last week but every hospital or health centre I contacted told me that stock will only arrive a week later," says Niranjan. On Monday, Niranjan inquired with a private hospital in his locality about the availability of the vaccine, but was told it is not available. "This was a huge source of tension for my mother because she was specifically told to take the next dose after four weeks and we were already a week beyond that deadline," he adds.
After he was turned away by the private hospital, he took his mother to the peripheral government hospital in Ashok Nagar but the staff there allegedly said that they were not sure if they had Covaxin stocked.
"They asked us to get a token and wait but gave no assurance that my mother will be given the vaccine," says Niranjan.
Following this, based on a list posted by the Chennai Corporation on Sunday night about temporary centres opened for vaccines, Niranjan began to enquire in other hospitals. The civic body had specifically mentioned in its tweet that while there was a shortage of Covaxin vaccines, it would still be available for those looking to get the second dose.
"But when I went to the Pudur Government school listed by the Corporation, they didn't even know that they were a vaccine centre," says Niranjan. "From there I went to the health centre in Vadapalani as well, to no avail and finally came back to the peripheral government hospital, where they had finally received stock of Covaxin," he adds.
By the time his mother was vaccinated, at 12 noon, she had already been waiting at the centre for close to four hours.
And while most recipients of the Covaxin were forced to run from pillar to post for their second dose, those who received Covishield as their first dose too report an alleged shortage.
28-year-old Apoorva, a resident of Tambaram who was helping her parents arrange for their second dose of vaccination, tells TNM that she was repeatedly told that multiple hospitals and health centres near her house did not have stock of Covishield vaccines.
"We started calling hospitals on April 15 as the six-week gap had ended but they were all out of vaccines," she says. "Finally it was on April 23 that they finally got vaccinated and even that was 15 kilometres away at a hospital in Nanganallur," she adds.
Several other residents allege that private hospitals are even turning away those who come with pre-booked appointments for the vaccine, citing a vaccine shortage.
'Lack of supply from centre'
Speaking to TNM, sources in the Chennai corporation admit to having only five days of vaccine supply at any time and maintain that the supply can only be bolstered if the number of people taking the vaccine increases.
"Covaxin we have restricted for second dose. We have enough Covaxin doses for people who are due the shot," says a senior official. "Covishield, we have sufficient supplies as of now. There was a gap in the supply of Covaxin due to lack of supply from the Centre. We are dependent on further supplies from the Centre."