With a shortage and private hospitals charging high prices for the vaccines, the inoculation process in the Capital city is hanging by a thread
In the Cowin app, we looked for two days for Covid-19 vaccine slots in Delhi. No vaccine slots were available at government hospitals nor private ones for 18–44 year-olds on the evening of June 1. Those available in private hospitals the next day were only offering Covishield and at a cost, which goes as high as Rs 1,800 per dose like in the East West Medical Center, of South East Delhi. These too were gone within half an hour.
We found Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin were all booked for, while there were no Russia’s Sputnik V being offered on the Cowin website for 18–44 year-olds or 45 plus age group.
Covishield, which was available, is manufactured by Serum Institute in India and they sell to the Central government at Rs 150 per dose. This amount is doubled for the State government which pays a cost of Rs 300 per dose, and private hospitals Rs 600 per dose. Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is sold at the same cost as Covishield to the centre, but charges a high amount of Rs 600 per dose to State governments and a whopping Rs 1200 for private hospitals.
And while many countries like the UK and the US inoculate their people for free, here that is not the case. The Delhi government however decided that much like the 45 and above people receiving free doses at government run hospitals and centres, the people in the ages between 18-44 will also be given the free vaccines.
But, since phase 3 of the vaccination drive opened up in the country on May 1, things have not gone well. Justice Vipin Sanghi, of the Delhi High Court questioned the Centre on the vaccine policy observing, “I can speak for myself … You have announced the vaccination policy for 18 to 44 year-olds now but, you don’t have vaccines. Then why do you have to announce and make a declaration when you don’t have the vaccines?”
The lack of vaccines is so acute that the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that vaccinations will be halted from May 22, at government run centres due to shortage of vaccines for 18–44 year-olds. He also said that if the shortage continues, it would take 30 months for this age group to be vaccinated.
The Delhi government in fact issued a global Expression of Interest (EOI) for procuring 1 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses on an urgent basis. In the EOI, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has explained that the vaccines offered to the state government must be approved by a competent authority of the Centre.
It has also stated that it will accept an offer or EOI for COVID-19 vaccines through email, with a deadline set for 5 pm on June 7, 2021.
A press release by the Union Health ministry states that in Delhi 10.5 lakh (10,51,317) doses have till now been administered to 18-44 year olds. Out of this 253 have received their second dose, as well.
Looking at the total figures in Delhi, till now, according to the health bulletin of the Delhi government, 54 lakh people (54,10,147) in Delhi have been vaccinated. Out of this number over 12 lakh (12,24,193) people have received both their doses, meaning a majority still await their second dose. On top of that according to the central ministry data, as on 1 October, 2020 Delhi’s total population stands at 2.04 crores (2,04,14,000) meaning not even a fourth of the population in Delhi has been fully vaccinated.
On May 24, Aam Aadmi Party (which leads the Delhi government) MLA Atishi, tweeted a list of their total supplies of Covid vaccines. A total of 14,41,800 Covaxin doses had been received whereas 31,52,450 of covishield doses, all of which was for 45 plus age group, frontline workers and healthcare workers.
Compared to that, the supply for the 18-44 years old age group until May 24 was 1,50,000 of Covaxin and 6,67,690 of Covishield doses.
And now with a shortage and private hospitals charging high prices for the vaccines, the inoculation process is hanging by a thread. But a move which may get more people to private centres — who may be concerned with safety, or the long process — is the introduction of drive through facilities. Aakash healthcare, which is doing so in the premises of Vegas Mall in Dwarka are charging Rs 1,400 for the facility and Rs 1,000 for getting the vaccine administered inside the mall premises.
There are also two malls in Saket, one DLF Avenue, which is offering a drive through facility through Max Hospital, and second Select City Walk mall which is through Fortis hospital offering doses for Rs 1,100 and Rs 1,450, respectively.
Many who can afford it, are opting for the private facilities, but even they are limited.
Parnika, a 35-year-old who lives in Delhi’s South West district says she decided to go with a private hospital which charged Rs 900 for the Covishield dose. Her spouse had already received his first dose of Covaxin a few weeks back at a Delhi government run facility. But with vaccines running out, no government facilities now offering inoculation she was left with this option. “I just had to get the vaccination and we kept checking for slots, we got one available at a private hospital and just grabbed the chance”.
Her husband Dev, tells us that now no Covaxin shots are available. A month has passed since his first dose, “I keep checking but there is no Covaxin available. I want to know how private offices are getting vaccines to give to their employees through private hospitals. Are the state government selling their vaccine doses to the private hospitals when they claim not to have any doses themselves?”
This was a question also posed by Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia who had alleged “mismanagement” by the Centre. He had also, according to reports, sought to know how private hospitals were getting vaccines while states were being told that there are no stocks.
According to centres data, the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country have exceeded 21.58 Cr (21,58,18,547) as per the 7 pm provisional report on June 1. The country’s total population is approximately 136 crores, and the central government believes the country will be fully inoculated by December of 2021.
Data says nearly 12 crore doses will be available for National COVID Vaccination for the month of June 2021. Compared to this about 7.9 crore doses were available for the National COVID Vaccination Programme in May 2021.
The centre has also defended itself by saying that “100% advance of Rs. 1732.50 cr (after TDS Rs. 1699.50 cr) was released to Serum Institute of India (SII) on 28.04.2021 for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine during May, June and July, and was received by them on 28.04.2021. As on date, against the last order of 10 crore doses for supplies of Covishield vaccine, 8.744 crore doses have been delivered till 03.05.2021.”
At the same time, it also spoke of Bharat Biotechs Covaxin which it says advance was paid of Rs 787.50 cr (after TDS Rs. 772.50 cr) April 28 of this year “for 05 crore Covaxin doses during May, June and July, and was received by them on 28.04.2021. As on date against the last order of 02 crore doses for supplies of Covaxin vaccine, 0.8813 crore doses have been delivered till 03.05.2021.”
(Cover: Credit – Getty Images)