Vaccines run dry amidst rapid uptake

Representational Photo

On Wednesday, a majority of vaccination sites in Kashmir division ran out of CoviShield supply well before afternoon, pushing people to return unvaccinated even after queuing up for hours. Officials cite “high fresh demand” as the reason for the shortage, claiming that the coming weeks will see better supply in J&K.

Shakeela Akhtar, a 58 year old woman from Batamaloo Srinagar had decided to get vaccinated after seeing a number of her relatives and neighbors getting sick with COVID19 in the past few weeks. However, at the Public Health Center Batamaloo, she was informed that there is no stock of vaccine left when she reached there at 11 am. Many others had received this news after queuing up for registration for over an hour, she said.

At a private hospital in Srinagar, management kept calling the authorities for the supply, only to be told to wait. “There is no vaccine they are telling us. How will we manage the angry crowd?” a senior administrator of this hospital said.

A senior healthcare official said that vaccination in Kashmir division has taken off well in the past three weeks. He said on a daily basis, over 30,000 people in Kashmir get vaccinated. In Jammu division too, the response to vaccination has warmed up, he said. As per official figures, over 21 lakh doses of the vaccine had been administered in the UT since mid-January when the drive commenced.

This, he said, has resulted in faster uptake of the stock that was estimated. “We get nearly 50,000 doses for each day. But now it appears, we need more,” he said. However, the supply is not easy to come by as India grapples with the second, deadlier wave of COVID19.

The senior official said due to the supply shortage, there was a likelihood of delaying the vaccination of 18 to 45 years age group. “It cannot start on May 01 in J&K, as has been announced,” he said. He said the delay of two weeks had been discussed in Government’s review meetings and an Action Plan for this phase was being charted out. “It appears we will start this phase in the second week of May,” he said.

Director General Health, Family Welfare and Immunization Dr Saleem ur Rehman said the vaccine shortage was a “country wide problem”. “The production is expected to rise and this will help us tide over our requirements better,” he said. Dr Rehman said the demand in J&K currently was “very high”.

In district Shopian 84 percent and in Ganderbal 81 percent of the targeted population in the age group of 45 years and above has been vaccinated, the Government figures state. However, in Srinagar district, just 25 percent of the targeted population has been covered while Kupwara district is the worst performing district with just 19 percent coverage.