Vaccination drive impacted in many Kerala districts as stocks run low

Currently, Kerala has a stock of 6.29 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccines, of which around 3 lakh are doses saved from wastage. This may last not more than two to three days, district officials told TNM.
Representative image of health worker giving vaccine shot to woman
Representative image of health worker giving vaccine shot to woman

On May 11, Kerala received 3.50 lakh doses of Covishield vaccines. However, this is the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine doses that the Kerala government had to purchase directly from the manufacturer, Serum Institute of India (SII), under the new policy announced by the Union government. According to state officials, Kerala, however, has not received the next batch of free doses of the vaccine it is scheduled to get from the Union government. As a result, the state is facing a shortage of vaccine doses for citizens above 45 years old. Some of the districts TNM spoke to fear the existing doses will last only for a few days.

According to the data published by the Union government, Kerala has so far received 78.97 lakh doses of vaccine (both Covishield and Covaxin). According to the Kerala government’s COVID-19 dashboard, the state has administered 80.41 lakh shots to people as of May 11. The dashboard also shows that Kerala has 2.79 lakh doses of both types of the vaccine in stock. These are the doses remaining (saved from wastage) from the previous batch of vaccines provided by the Union government. Kerala has, in fact, used all the doses given by the Union government efficiently and the doses remaining with the state is what was saved from wastage. With the 3.5 lakh Covishield doses that the state purchased from SII, Kerala currently has a stock of 6.29 lakh doses of vaccine.

According to a source in the state Health Department, the Union government has not supplied vaccines to the state for the past four days. “The 2.79 lakh stock we currently have is what the Union government supplied. We are currently administering vaccines to those above 45 years of age from this batch. The fresh stock of 3.5 lakh Covishield doses that the state purchased will also be administered to those between 18 and 44 years of age. There is no clarity on when further doses from the Union government will be available,” the source told TNM, adding that the excess vaccine was saved by avoiding wastage.

Many district authorities TNM spoke to stated that due to the apprehension over vaccine shortage, they are focusing on administering vaccines to those who are scheduled to receive their second doses.

"There is a shortage of vaccines, which, in turn, has affected the vaccination drive. We don't get vaccines as per the requirement. Hence, the current vaccination drive is focused on giving the second dose to those above 45 years of age, while a small quantity is also used to administer the first dose for the same age category," Kannur District Medical Officer Dr Narayana Naik told TNM. He also added that the drive for those between 18 and 44 years, which is part of phase three, has not started yet due to the vaccine shortage.

Officials of Pathanamthitta and Malappuram districts also stated that they are presently focusing on administering the second dose of vaccine.

"On May 11, we received 3,000 doses of Covishield and 7,000 doses of Covaxin. These doses, however, will get over by May 12, Wednesday. Beneficiaries are being administered more Covishield than Covaxin vaccines. So, there might be a shortage of Covishield for one or two days. We are expecting to receive the next batch within two to three days. While there were 25 vaccine centres on May 11, on May 12, it will be available in 10 centres,” said Pathanamthitta DMO Dr AL Sheeja.

Some district authorities also said that the quota of Covishield vaccines that the state purchased is yet to be distributed. Meanwhile, the Kerala government has placed an order for additional one crore doses of the vaccines (both Covishield and Covaxin).

“As of May 11 morning, Malappuram had 25,000 doses of vaccines in stock. Of this, 20,000 doses are Covishield and 5,000 doses are Covaxin. But this vaccine stock is part of the Union government’s allocation. We are yet to receive the batch of vaccines that the state purchased. We have not received any information on that yet. The existing stock will be over within two days. We are focusing on those who need the second dose,” said Dr Rajesh, nodal officer for vaccination in the Malappuram district.

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