Coronavirus | Many in Tamil Nadu miss out on second dose

In rural areas, even first dose is being administered only to a limited number

While the Central and State governments have announced the roll-out of universal COVID-19 vaccination for adults from May 1, many senior citizens and those aged above 45 are unable to get their second dose owing to vaccine shortage at many government and private hospitals.

In rural areas, even the first dose is being administered to only a limited number of people daily; in Chennai, a section of residents found it difficult to get the second dose.

Mathew Thomas, a resident of Old Mahabalipuram Road, went to the Injambakkam primary health centre for the second dose of Covaxin. “Covishield was available but the PHC had no stock of Covaxin. I have to wait for Covaxin since this is my second jab,” he said.

The staffers told him that Covaxin was expected in two days. He left his contact number. “I saw a list of phone numbers written down. Reality is different from the plan,” he said.

For a week, only this PHC had been providing Covaxin in the East Coast Road-Old Mahabalipuram Road belt, sources said.

A person who went to a private hospital on Nelson Manickam Road for his second dose had a bitter experience. He had taken his first dose on March 10. People were asked to wait in a temporary tent until the vaccine arrived. Officials then announced that only the second dose would be administered. “Once the vaccine arrived, it was a mad scramble,” he said.

Another person who wanted his parents to receive the second dose on Friday said when he called up the hospital, officials there told him that they had run out of stock and asked him to check again on Monday. His father had suffered three strokes. “If he were to contract the infection, he would not survive,” he said. Though his parents had paid ₹1,000 in advance for both doses, he decided to try another private hospital at Chetpet, which had also run out of stock. The government had recommended a wait period of eight weeks after the first dose. But he wanted his parents to have the second dose sooner in anticipation of chaos after May 1.

According to healthcare providers, the shortage is more pronounced in the private sector than at government hospitals. “If a hospital sought 20 doses, it was given just three. Shortage is high in the private sector and around 30%-50% in the government sector. It will take a month to settle down,” said T.N. Ravishankar, past president of the Indian Medical Association. “When the vaccine manufacture is augmented, the situation will ease.”

Senior doctors in the private sector said the stocks had been low for over 10 days. Centres that administered more doses were given more. Hospitals were advised to turn away new patients and reserve the doses for the second round. While Covaxin had not been supplied for more than a week, Covishield that arrived a few days ago was being sent to government hospitals and health centres, doctors said.

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