Unavailability of vaccines has delayed the third phase of the COVID-19 inoculation drive for those in the 18-44 age bracket in the eight northeastern states.
Health officials of all the eight states – Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim – have confirmed that they have not received the doses of vaccines: Covishield from the Pune-based Serum Institute and Covaxin from Bharat Biotech.
Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma had told NDTV that it might take a couple of weeks for the process to start.
According to the Centre’s protocol, vaccines for those within the 18-44 age cohort will be delivered to the respective states based on the number of people who had registered online for the same. The cost will either be borne by the state or, by the inoculated individual, while the central government had borne the cost of inoculation for those who were vaccinated so far – the frontline workers and all those above 45.
“We are yet to get the vaccine,” Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told media persons on Friday.
“We have already placed orders for one crore doses each with the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech. We are on it. The central government is talking to vaccine manufacturers and accordingly, the states will be provided with vaccines and we will purchase the same,” he added.
Assam is one of the states that have declared that they will inoculate for free.
Later the same day, Mr Sarma tweeted, “Assam gets 5 lakh + #COVID19Vaccine by GOI (371480 Covishield; 128830 Covaxin) for 18+ people. We’re procuring it immediately through funds of Assam Arogya Nidhi”.
“Assam is vaccinating close to one lakh person every day,” he said. But, according to Assam National Health Mission director S Laxmanan, the inoculation process will only begin after the state has received and secured the corresponding doses from the centre.
Tripura NHM director, Siddhartha Shiv Jaiswal, said that the vaccination of those above 18 in the state will not be possible until May 20.
“Our requirement is for about 32 lakh doses to administer the two doses to around 16 lakh of eligible people within the age group. We have earmarked Rs 133.19 crore for the same and other overhead expenses. In the first phase, we had asked for 16 lakh doses and asked the Serum Institute to deliver 8 lakh by May 1 and the rest before May 15. However, they said, the first shipment will be at least 20 days delayed,” Jaiswal said in a media interaction.
Sikkim Director General cum Secretary of Health Department, Pempa Tshering Bhutia said, they, too, haven’t received doses from Serum Institute. The frontier state had sent a requirement for 6.60 lakh doses and expects at least 1.50 lakh doses in the first instalment.
In Arunachal Pradesh, a senior state government official said that the vaccination drive did not begin today due to “technical issues”. The Meghalaya government has stated that it will announce the exact date of the inoculation drive. It has placed orders with the Serum Institute of India.