Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday rejected calls from states to offer coronavirus vaccinations to younger people to help contain a record surge in cases. Many states in India, the world's biggest vaccine producer, which has exported tens of millions of shots, have also complained of shortages even for the priority groups of recipients.
Inoculations are currently limited to those aged over 45 and health and frontline workers.
"It's not that you can set up these big vaccine factories overnight," Modi said addressing chief ministers of states via video conference. "Whatever production we have got, we will have to prioritise."
"In our cities, a huge segment is poor or elderly … we should take them for vaccination and prioritise it," he added. India's health minister said earlier there was no shortage of shots for the groups eligible for vaccination, with more than 43 million doses in stock or in the pipeline. India has been inoculating about 4 million people a day.
However, vaccine centres in several states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra, home to financial capital Mumbai, have been shutting early and turning people away as supplies run out. Odisha state said it had closed half its vaccination sites. India's vaccination drive has so far administered 92 million doses, the most in the world after the United States and China, but much lower than many countries per capita.
Modi said that a challenging situation was emerging again due to COVID-19 and urged states to ramp up testing. Chairing a meeting with chief ministers over the COVID-19 situation in the country, he said many states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Punjab had crossed the peak of the first wave in terms of COVID-19 cases and it was a matter of serious concern.
He said the period between April 11 to April 14 can be observed as Tika (vaccination) Utsav' for COVID-19 vaccination. "A challenging situation is emerging again. We need to fight the second surge in cases.
Many states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Punjab have crossed the first wave of peak in terms of COVID-19 cases. This is a serious concern. People have become complacent. In most states administration has also become relaxed," he said.
"I appeal to you all to stress on COVID19 testing. Our target is to do 70 per cent RT-PCR tests. Let the number of positive cases come high, but do maximum testing," he added. The Prime Minister said that April 11 is the birth anniversary of Jyotiba Phule and April 14 is the birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar.
"Can we do a mass vaccination programme from 11-14th April for the eligible people with zero wastage and use our resources optimally?" he asked. The Prime Minister said people should not become careless after taking the COVID-19 vaccine.