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Vax supply adequate, equitable, says Centre

Top central ministers denied any scarcity of covid-19 vaccines and assured adequate supplies, even as many vaccination centres in pandemic-hit cities shut on Friday as stocks ran out.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan termed several states’ claims of vaccine shortage “baseless”, adding the Centre is supplying vaccines to all states irrespective of the ruling party.

“The central government is working very hard in controlling the pandemic and speeding up the nationwide covid vaccination programme, and states should support it instead of playing politics. Whichever states are reporting to us about the shortage, we are supplying adequate vaccines without delay,” the minister said in an interview.

Maharashtra, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh have formally informed the Centre about depleting stocks, while Chhattisgarh and Odisha have said they were facing a shortage.

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said the state plans to vaccinate about 17.7 million people in the priority group, and for this, it needs 4 million doses every week. “So far, the state has received 16 million doses. To date, 9.2-9.5 million doses have been administered. At present, Maharashtra has very little stock, and some centres are closed. The Centre said 1.74 million doses will be given after 15 April, but this will hamper the vaccination drive. Therefore, full delivery should be done as per our demand,” Thackeray said.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) tweeted that some centres are short of vaccines due to the non-receipt of stocks from the Centre, adding “all centres should be up and vaccinating soon”. Pictures circulating on social media showed notices reading “Vaccine out of stock” outside several centres.

Punjab, one of the states of “grave concern” on covid, had alerted the Centre about depleting stocks last week itself, a senior state official said. “The centre has provided us vaccines; however, we still need more to vaccinate our population,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Uttar Pradesh, which has imposed a partial lockdown, expects to get more vaccines by the end of the week. “We would be getting vaccines on 10 April, and we have sufficient quantity up to that,” said Alok Kumar, secretary to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. However, some private hospitals have stopped vaccinations as supplies ran out. “We started covid-19 vaccinations on 1 March. Since the last week, we don’t have the vaccines. We were immunizing 200 people (a day), but after the stock started getting exhausted, we could only vaccinate 50 people. Currently, we have stopped covid-19 vaccinations,” said Dr Alok Gupta, director of Lyf hospital in Ghaziabad.

Union home minister Amit Shah on Friday claimed all states were being provided with adequate stocks and that “the information on vaccine shortage is not correct”.

India has so far administered 97.87 million vaccine doses, data showed. Maharashtra has administered the highest at 9.34 million and is followed by Rajasthan at 8.81 million and Gujarat with 8.48 million.

India recorded 131,968 new cases in the last 24 hours, with Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan accounting for 83% of the cases. Maharashtra reported the highest daily new cases at 56,286, followed by Chhattisgarh with 10,652 and Uttar Pradesh with 8,474. India’s total active caseload has reached 979,608. It now comprises 7.5% of the country’s total positive cases. Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala account for 73% of the country’s total active cases.

Kalpana Pathak contributed to this story..

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