Maharashtra puts the brake on Covid-19 vaccination for 18-44 year olds

Doses of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine meant for 18-44 years too could be diverted for the 45 plus group
Maharashtra has put the brakes on vaccination of persons in the 18-44 years age group and will use the available stock to provide second dose for those above 45 years. The decision has been taken because of non-availability of adequate stock of Covid-19 vaccines, Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said on Tuesday.

The state health department has announced diverting the entire stock of 275,000 Covaxin doses, which it had procured for the 18-44 age group, to vaccinate those above 45 years.

Doses of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine meant for 18-44 years too could be diverted for the 45 plus group. Tope indicated challenges in procuring doses but did not disclose the quantum of Covishield which could be diverted. As of now, no instruction has been issued to districts on diverting Covishield doses.

While Maharashtra has declared it would divert Covaxin doses meant for 18-44 years, seven other states had last week flagged off shortages in vaccines for administering the second dose. States have also started cancelling appointments for the first jab to prioritise the stock for second doses.

Tope said the move to divert the doses followed discussion with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.

“I spoke with the Union health minister and explained that vaccines need to be provided as second doses are due. However, vaccines are not available. Hence, we will use the vaccines procured for persons in 18-44 age group for vaccinating people over the age of 45 years,” Tope said. He added that this would lead to a slowing down of vaccination in the state.

Universal vaccination (for those above 18 years) started on May 1. While the Centre provides doses for those above 45 years, states are responsible for procurement for those in the 18-44 bracket.

The Maharashtra health minister said that nearly 500,000 need to take the second dose of Covaxin but only 35,000 doses are available with the state. Also,  nearly 1.6 million above 45 years need the second dose of Covishield. Tope did not disclose the Covishield stock available with the state.

However, data from the Union health ministry shows Maharashtra has been provided with over 18 million doses for vaccinating persons above 45 years. Around 500,000 doses are still available with the state and another 1,13,330 doses would be delivered to Maharashtra in the next three days. Overall, around 700,000 doses will be sent to various states, it said.

Meanwhile, the Centre has advised states to prioritise the second dose and allot a minimum of 70 per cent of doses received from the Centre for the purpose.

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan held a meeting with health secretaries of all the states and union territories asking the states to address the needs of large number of persons waiting for their second dose.

The states were informed about the modifications in CoWIN platform to better reflect the changing needs of the vaccination exercise. 

The states can download a second dose due report to better plan completion of vaccination of the target groups. CoWin platform also provides flexibility and feature for reserving slots for  the second dose.

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