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Chaos In Third Stage Of India’s Vaccination Drive

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On the day of the scheduled opening of phase 3 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme to cover the entire adult population of the country there appears to be no clarity on supplies as several states have deferred the roll out through their public health systems.
Only six states will be able to start the vaccination drive while the rest have delayed the exercise by a few days or are uncertain when they would be able to start as they are still facing a vaccine shortage. For the states that will start – Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Odisha – the vaccine drive will be limited to a few districts. The Maharashtra government said the process would start but would depend on supplies.
On Friday, the Centre said that only some states which ‘have coordinated with vaccine makers’ for procurement of supply from the open market would start the drive. This statement comes even as several states, including Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Punjab, have written to the Centre seeking urgent replenishment of vaccine supplies. Tamil Nadu too said it has not received the required vaccines from the central government and thus had to defer the rollout. Private hospital chains such as Apollo Hospitals, Max Healthcare and Fortis Healthcare, meanwhile, said they would launch the third drive of vaccination at select locations, having procured vaccines directly from the manufacturers.
On Friday the Supreme Court in an important hearing asked the government why it could not follow a national immunisation programme policy with respect to vaccines and how it could expect a sense of equity from the vaccine manufacturers. The court asked why the Centre had not procured 100% of the vaccines and equitably distributed them across the country but was instead leaving it to manufacturers. The Bench asked whether now, one State would get priority access over another in getting the vaccines. These developments come at a time when India crossed another grim milestone, becoming the first country in the world to register over 4 lakh infections in a single day. As many as 3,464 new deaths have also been reported. Universal vaccination, as experts have repeatedly stressed, is the best weapon and hope now against the virus. This rocky beginning down that road is a huge cause for concern.

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