Maharashtra on Thursday mounted a scathing attack on the Centre for its ‘discriminatory’ approach in allocating vaccines to the state. The state government estimates that its stock of Covaxin and Covishield vaccines will be exhausted in two days.
Maharashtra has 900,000 doses in stock. At the current pace of vaccination, it will last just two days, claimed the state’s Health Minister Rajesh Tope. He added that Maharashtra has been allotted 1.7 million doses of vaccines from the Centre. It requires 4 million doses per week. Of this, the state will get 750,000 doses now, the rest later.
One of the largest government-run vaccination sites in Mumbai on the Bandra Kurla Complex grounds has only 350 vaccine doses left. The site was vaccinating more than 1,000 people daily. Twenty-five vaccination centres had to close down in Mumbai owing to dearth of vaccines in the morning. Another 25 centres ran out of stocks on Thursday evening. Private hospitals like Hinduja said their stocks could stretch till Saturday at best.
Tope and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar had apprised Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan of the situation on Wednesday.
“The Centre is taking a discriminatory approach when it comes to vaccine allocation. Maharashtra is leading in Covid vaccination drive, but overlooked by the Centre. States like Uttar Pradesh were supplied with 4.8 million doses recently. Madhya Pradesh got 4 million doses, Gujarat 3 million, and Haryana 2.4 million,” rued Tope. In an attempt to highlight the inequitable distribution, Tope said with a population of 60 million, Gujarat got 10 million doses, while Maharashtra with a population of 120 million got just 10.4 million doses. The inoculation drive had to be halted in Panvel, Satara, and Sangli, added Tope.
Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress coalition Maha Vikas Aghadi rule Maharashtra. Tope told reporters that the shortage of vaccines comes at a time when cases are spiking in the state and the case positivity rate (of testing) is 20-25 per cent.
Despite several attempts, Union health ministry officials could not be reached for a comment till the time of going to press.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted on Thursday denying vaccine shortage of any kind across India. “Let’s put an end to fear-mongering now. Total administered doses: 90 million-plus. In stock/nearing delivery to states: 43 million-plus. Where does the question of shortage arise? We are continuously monitoring and enhancing supply,” he tweeted.
The vaccine shortage, however, has degenerated into a political war of words. Senior NCP leader Jayant Patil tweeted on Thursday: “While Maharashtra has the highest number of patients in the country, it should get the highest number of vaccines, but this is not allowed on purpose. It seems, some people in Delhi want the public health system in Maharashtra to not function properly.”
States like Karnataka have 2.5-3 million doses and the Centre has already assured another 2.5 million doses soon.