As the deadlier second wave is aggressively spreading across districts, COVID-19 vaccines and treatment drugs including Remdesivir, Tocilizumab and Bevacizumab injections are being sold on the black market in Andhra Pradesh, even as vigilante department officials are busting several such rackets amidst the health crisis, as per reports.
Citing reliable sources, the Deccan Chronicle on May 16 reported that a 10-dose vial of Covishield is being sold at about Rs 20,000 and Covaxin at nearly Rs 25,000. According to the report, “these vials are being brought from Visakhapatnam in cool packs and are being sold to those who want to administer it. After receiving the vial, it is being secured in a household refrigerator. The one who manages to get a vial of the vaccine, mobilises 10 persons to share the dose of 0.5 ml each and also its total cost. They engage a private health worker to administer the jab for all of the 10 persons at a common place and pay for the service and for disposable needles and syringes.”
It should be noted that the Andhra Pradesh state government has announced free vaccination for all persons above 18 years. Owing to vaccine shortage, the officials are now administering the second dose of vaccine for elders above 45 years of age.
“The vaccine shortage and failure of the central government’s policies for a better vaccination drive are contributing to the rise in black market of COVID vaccines and drugs,” opined senior doctor Sambi Reddy, based in Tenali in Guntur district.
According to official data, as on May 17, Andhra Pradesh administered 77.38 lakh vaccines (including first and second doses) in the state. The state which had reported nearly 11% of COVID-19 vaccine wastage in the initial days of vaccine roll out, has now reported the cumulative vaccine wastage at about 0.95%, lower than the national average.
On May 15, Vijayawada Police arrested a government medical officer and his assistant who were allegedly found selling COVID vaccines in the black market.
“Very low percentage of vaccines supplied to the government and private hospitals go missing as their administration is required to follow certain specified protocols. If the central government tracks and checks the supply of vaccines from the two companies – Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin), black marketing of the vaccines could be controlled,”Reddy added.
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Meanwhile, K Sujatha Rao, former union secretary of Health and Family Welfare tweeted: “The game has started. In AP you can get covishield or covaxin for 2000 a dose. Black marketing has started.”
Responding to the complaints of availability of COVID-19 vaccines on the black market, Director of Health Dr Geetha Prasadini said that the diversion of COVID-19 vaccine illegally in some parts of the state has come to their notice.
“We have entrusted the task to the vigilance and enforcement wing to keep check on such practices as they are already dealing with diversion of Remdesivir injections at present. Moreover, if the cold chain fails to be maintained, the utility of the jab is doubtful and at times, it may cause (novel) coronavirus infection also. I have also instructed district immunisation officers to keep vigil on such illegal practices and also misuse of vaccines and cautioned them. We are facing a lot of pressure from influential persons for specific types of vaccine and we are handling it properly without succumbing to pressure,” Prasadini was quoted as saying.
On May 17, the officials of the Drug Control Administration and Vigilance department arrested several persons for selling one Tocilizumab injection for Rs 3 lakh in Visakhapatnam, as per reports.
Last week, Eluru Police reportedly arrested a 10 member gang including one government hospital staff for selling Remdisvir injections on the black market.
Earlier this month, three gangs were busted in Guntur for reportedly selling COVID-19 drugs at inflated prices. Similar cases are being reported from across districts in the state.
As on May 17, the state reported 18,561 new coronavirus cases and 105 deaths taking the toll to 9,481. There are over 2.11 lakh active cases in the state.
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