Patna: Rajesh Singh, Janardhan Yadav, Taslim Arif Khan, Sunanda Kumari and Vinod Kumar from Bihar, all in the age group of 18 to 44, are keen to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, owing to the acute shortage of vaccines in the state, they have been unable to do so despite trying for the last fortnight.
All five are residents of different towns across Bihar, but have been in the grip of uncertainty to access the vaccine. Their reality runs contrary to the state government’s claims which said just four days ago that they have vaccinated the highest number of people in 18-44 age group in the country.
As per data, 15,50,092 people in the 18-44 age group have been vaccinated in the state so far. While Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had announced that they are aiming to vaccinate 5.46 crore people in the stated age group, the current rate of vaccination does not support the claims.
Furthermore, the vaccination drive has been halted six days after it began. “No one received vaccines for seven days out of the last 18 days in Patna,” a district health official told NewsClick.
As of May 28, no vaccination was carried out for those in the age group of 18-44 in Patna and several other districts, and no appointments were available for the next day due to the unavailability of vaccines.
Rajesh, a resident of Boring road in Patna, said he had returned twice from the vaccination centre as the Health Department had stopped the drive without any notice in the last three days. “A large number of young people and middle aged people have been returning from vaccination centres without getting vaccines daily. It is simple, adequate vaccines are unavailable,” he added.
The COVID-19 vaccination drive in the state began on January 16 this year. However, after the second wave of the pandemic hit Bihar in mid-April, the state government declared that they will
speed up the vaccination process for all. Notably, the ruling NDA’s election manifesto for the Assembly elections had promised free vaccination.
But, the vaccination drives have been badly affected in the last few days. According to a Health Department official, the Bihar State Health Society had provided 50,000 doses to Patna, following which the vaccination drive was conducted from Sunday to Tuesday, i.e. May 23-25. However, in the last four days, i.e. after May 25, there has been no vaccination in the state capital.
It should be noted that this is not the first time the state is facing a vaccine shortage. Earlier on May 19 as well, the vaccination drive for those in 18-44 age group had to be halted, as per reports.
Prior to that, the government had postponed the vaccination drive scheduled from May 1. Following this, on April 30, the Bihar State Health Society had announced that the ongoing registration for vaccines would continue and the doses would be available from the second week of May, instead of the 1st.
Also read: Bihar Faces Massive Challenge in Vaccinating 18-44 Years Age Group
The official drive for 18-44 years began on May 9, a day after the first consignment of 3.4 lakh vaccine doses reached Patna. “This consignment of vaccine doses lasted for a week but the government is hopeful to receive more vaccine doses this month,” the Health Department official added.
Special secretary of the state health department, Manoj Kumar, said that last month the government had placed an order for one crore Covishield vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India (SII). Besides, an order was also placed for the supply of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech.
“The state has received a few consignments of Covishield and Covaxin vaccine doses. We expect more consignments will arrive soon to continue the vaccination that started early this month,” Kumar said.
Meanwhile, state Health Minister Mangal Pandey has repeatedly claimed that all in the age group of 18-44 will be vaccinated in the state. However, his claims have raised many eyebrows as the state has so far received only 1.8 crore vaccine doses and used 1.3 crore for vaccination of first as
well as second dose for all age groups, as per official data.
Contrary to Pandey’s claims of no shortage of vaccines, no vaccination has been taking place in Gaya, Auranagabad, Rohtas and Jehanabad districts for two-five days due to its unavailability.
According to health department officials, ongoing vaccination for people above 45 years of age will continue as usual in the government-run hospitals as vaccine doses for them are adequate in the
Sunanda, a school teacher in Muzaffarpur district, who is staying with her parents in Kankarbagh in Patna since the lockdown was imposed on May 5 expressed her dissatisfaction that on the spot registration for vaccination of people in 18-44 age group is not yet available. “Despite the central health ministry directive to all the state government to start on the spot registration for vaccination, it is yet to start in Bihar. The health officials have informed that no such order has been issued by the state government.”
Confirming this, Patna district immunisation officer Dr S P Vinayak said, “The old process for online slot booking for vaccination of 18 to 44 years of age continues now and no on spot registration for vaccination will be made.”
However, he too admitted that on the spot registration should be made available for those in the age 18-44 years as well.
Taslim, a resident of Gewal Bigha in Gaya town, has been putting in all efforts to get the first jab of vaccine as soon as possible as he wanted to return to his work place in Saudi Arabia after the lockdown ends. “I am yet to be vaccinated. There is no on the spot registration facility for vaccination, online registration is a difficult process as registration for few slots get over in a very
short time,” he added.
Dr Sunil Kumar, secretary of the Indian Medical Assocaition Bihar, said that when vaccination for the 18 to 44 years group should be carried on a large scale, it has instead slowed down. “Vaccination is a must and the only protection from COVID-19 infection. Therefore, the government needs to focus on increasing its supply on a large scale, especially, if it wants to vaccinate all,” he said.
Official figures of vaccination in Bihar reveal a bad picture. For example, only 43,251 people of all age groups received vaccines (first and second) on May 27 (Thursday ) in the state. Less than 1,000 people were vaccinated in 22 of the 38 districts. As per the state COVID-19 portal, in a few districts, hardly 100 to 200 people were vaccinated. In the rural majority Arwal district, only 175 people were vaccinated followed by 201 people vaccinated in Jehanabad district, 264 in Sheohar district, 312 in Aurangabad district and 330 in Sheikhpura district on May 27.
All this, despite the much publicised vaccination express (vehicles) visiting rural areas to vaccinate people at the door steps.
In April this year, the state government had approved an allocation of Rs 4,000 crore for vaccinating people in the 18-44 age bracket. Later, the state cabinet cleared the release of Rs 1,000 crore from the total allocation of funds for procurement of vaccine doses from Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech.
Bihar officially reported 2,568 COVID-19 cases on May 27, its lowest tally in the last one and half month. With COVID-19 cases officially decreasing by the day in the state, the positivity rate stands below 2% and recovery rate is 95.24%. The active COVID-19 cases have also gone down to 28,447.