Maharashtra Will Dip Into Development Funds to Procure Vaccines for All Adults

Maharashtra Will Dip Into Development Funds to Procure Vaccines for All Adults

A special Maharashtra Cabinet Meeting was conducted on Tuesday wherein it was decided that the state will use its development funds to obtain vaccines, including imported ones, State Health Minister, Rajesh Tope said. 

This comes in the backdrop of the Centre allowing all over the age of 18 to receive vaccines from May 1 onwards. Although any adult can receive the vaccine after May 1, those under the age of 45 can only benefit from this if state governments have enough stock to vaccinate every adult. Keeping this in mind, the state has decided to import some vaccines to boost availability and stock. 

“We currently have two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, but if the need arises, we have also decided to import stock of other vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Sputnik from other countries. There will be no dearth of the money for the vaccine, as we have decided to use the development funds to procure vaccine stock,” Tope was quoted as saying after the meeting. 

Starting May 1, over 90 million people or around 73 per cent of Maharashtra’s population will be eligible to receive their vaccine doses. “A lot of the population from the age group of 18-44 years is from the working class and is highly mobile. Thus, they could transmit the virus to others. By vaccinating this age group we could contain the transmission rate a great extent,” Tope further said.

Currently, Maharashtra has 4,200 vaccination centres with a daily inoculation rate of 3,50,000 people. Data highlights that 12.76 million doses have been administered among 11.32 million people so far. However, officials are mindful of increasing the pace of vaccination even further. 

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Dr T. P. Lahane, Director at the  Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) said, “We are planning to increase the number of vaccination centres to more than 6,000. Our manpower in the government machinery is all set to roll out the drive. There will be large-scale participation of the private sector which will help us in effective implementation of the drive. We expect an adequate supply of the vaccine as three more manufacturers are set to enter the market.”

Despite the ambitious goals set by the government, the supply of vaccines remains a concern for health officials. “We never have stock for more than 3-4 days. We have been planning to ramp up the daily inoculation to 6-7 lakh people, but the short supply of the doses is causing a hindrance. Now the Centre has announced to allow the state to procure the stock directly from the manufacturers, but it remains to be seen if the manufacturers have the capacity of the production,” a health official said anonymously.

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Serum Institute of India or SII makes Covishield while Bharat Biotech produces Covaxin. These are the sole producers of COVID-19 vaccines in India. Although supply has been relatively low over the past month or so, Serum Institute has promised to increase its production from 60 million doses to around 110 million doses by June 2021. 

The Central Government has reached an agreement to pay ₹3,000 crores to SII in advance for two months’ supply of vaccines. It’s also worth noting that SII will be producing the Novavax vaccine at its Pune facility. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson has authorized Hyderabad-based Biological E to manufacture its single-dose vaccine in India.

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