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‘Around 100 million doses will definitely be wasted’

‘We are trying to salvage 50-100 million doses of Covishield with the latest drive on booster doses.’

In mid-June, Maharashtra was sitting on 3.4 million Covishield doses that had an August expiry date and less than 10,000 Covaxin doses were set to expire in June itself.

After the 75-day free booster drive campaign began on July 15, Maharashtra has not only exhausted its vaccine inventory, but is now getting fresh stocks almost every week.

The Amrit Mahotsav free vaccine drive — on the occasion of the 75th year of India’s Independence — is likely to salvage several million doses of Covid vaccines from being wasted.

The demand for boosters has now picked up significantly.

Sample this: From an average daily vaccination rate of 153,000 for the 18-59 age group in the first 14 days of July, the rate has now picked up.

It is an average 1.86 million doses a day in the same age cohort in the last 21 days (from July 15 till date).

On August 3, around 2.7 million doses were administered in this age group on a single day.

Overall booster dose coverage for the eligible population has zoomed too — from 8 per cent on July 14 to nearly 14 per cent now.

As a result, several million doses of vaccines, especially Covishield, are likely to be salvaged.

Maharashtra’s state immunisation officer Sachin Desai told Business Standard that about 85 per cent of all the booster shots now being given are Covishield.

“We are getting regular supplies from the Centre, which keeps a tab on the usage and daily demand through CoWIN. We last got around 7 lakh doses of Covishield and are expecting 5 lakh more next week,” he said.

The fresh batch is set to expire around December, Desai added.

Maharashtra, Desai said, had stopped placing fresh orders for vaccines from February-March.

Since July 15, the vaccination rate among the 18-59 category, which was earlier going for paid boosters, has risen sharply in the state.

“From 60,000 doses in that age group per day, it has doubled to 120,000 doses among the 18-59 years cohort. We are also administering around 15,000 doses a day to senior citizens and around 10,000 doses to adolescents,” Desai added.

A visit to the Serum Institute of India Pune plant showed workers busy packaging vaccines formulated around February-March this year.

These are set to expire around November-December.

The Serum Institute had stopped manufacturing Covishield around December when it had accumulated around 250 million doses of formulated vaccines, and another 250 million in the bulk form.

It now has around 200 million doses to spare, and thanks to the free booster drive, hopes to salvage around 100 million doses.

“Around 100 million doses will definitely be wasted. We are trying to salvage 50-100 million doses of Covishield out of the 200 million doses with the latest drive on booster doses,” Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla told Business Standard.

Bharat Biotech had a stock of 50 million doses lying at its plants around April and had halted production of Covaxin.

 

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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