All vaccination centers in India's financial capital of Mumbai were shut for three days starting Friday due to a shortage of vaccines, said authorities, as the country posted another record daily rise in coronavirus cases.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday appealed to residents of the city not to queue up at vaccination centers as vaccines have not yet been received. People aged 18 to 45 will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine from May 1 (tomorrow).
Kejriwal further informed that three lakh doses of Covishield had been assured to the city in the next few days. "We have not yet received the vaccines and are in constant touch with the company. We are hopeful that vaccines will reach by tomorrow or the day after. They have assured us 3 lakh doses of Covishield is coming to us first, tomorrow or the day after," he said.
He said that the Delhi government had requested both of the country's vaccine manufacturers to make 67 lakh doses each available in the next three months and the Delhi government is ready to pay for it.
India reported 386,452 news cases on Friday, while deaths from COVID-19 jumped by 3,498 over the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data. However, medical experts believe actual COVID-19 numbers in the world's second-most populous nation maybe five to 10 times greater than the official tally.
Since the end of February, India has added about 7.7 million cases as its second wave of infections picked up steam, a Reuters tally shows. In contrast, it took nearly six months to add the previous 7.7 million cases. The world's second-most populous nation is in deep crisis, with hospitals and morgues overwhelmed by the pandemic, medicines and oxygen in short supply and strict curbs on movement in the biggest cities.
Despite being the world's biggest producer of vaccines, India does not have enough stockpiles to keep up with the second deadly wave of infections, which deals a blow to its plans to vaccinate all adults, starting from Saturday. Only about 9% of a population of 1.4 billion have received a vaccine dose since January.
"I registered to get a slot 28 days before, but now they are saying there are no vaccines," Twitter user Jasmin Oza said in a video post. The original vaccination plan was to cover just 300 million of the highest-risk people by August, but India widened the target as infections flared.
However, its two vaccine producers were already struggling to increase capacity beyond 80 million doses a month, hit by a shortage of raw materials and a fire at the Serum Institute, the maker of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Inoculation centres in the financial capital of Mumbai will shut for three days from Friday because of the vaccine shortage, authorities said.
Prominent U.S. disease modeler Chris Murray, from the University of Washington, said the sheer magnitude of infections in India in a short period of time suggests an "escape variant" may be overpowering any prior immunity from natural infections in those populations. "That makes it most likely that it's B.1.617," he said.
But Murray cautioned that gene sequencing data on the coronavirus in India is sparse and that many cases are also being driven by the UK and South African variants.
Carlo Federico Perno, Head of Microbiology and Immunology Diagnostics at Rome's Bambino Gesù Hospital, said the Indian variant couldn't alone be the reason for India's huge surge, pointing instead to large social gatherings. Modi has been criticized for allowing massive political rallies and religious festivals which have been super-spreader events in recent weeks.
India has added about 7.7 million cases since the end of February, when its second wave picked up steam, according to a Reuters tally. In contrast, it took India nearly six months to add the previous 7.7 million cases. The country is in deep crisis, with hospitals and morgues overwhelmed, medicines and oxygen in short supply, and strict curbs on movement in its biggest cities.
India is the world's biggest producer of vaccines but does not have enough stockpiles to keep up with the second deadly COVID-19 wave, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government plans to vaccinate all adults starting May 1.
Only about 9% of India's 1.4 billion people have received a vaccine dose since January. Several states have said they will be unable to immunize people aged 18-45 immediately.
Officials in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's western home state of Gujarat said vaccinations for those aged between 18 and 45 will begin on Saturday in 10 of the worst-hit districts. Earlier, they had warned of postponing them by two weeks. Officials in the eastern state of Odisha said they hoped to start vaccinations on Monday, if vaccine stocks arrived.
However, the health ministry said states had 10 million vaccine doses in their stockpiles and 2 million more would be supplied in the next three days. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the contradicting statements.
Modi met cabinet ministers on Friday as the wave of infections cripples the health system and threatens to hit major businesses. Absenteeism in offices and industries is growing, as staff fall ill or take leave to care for sick relatives. There was no immediate word of decisions taken at the meeting of ministers,
US has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca supplies to India, to allow it to make more than 20 million doses. Shipments from other countries poured in, with a third one from Britain arriving on Friday, while Ireland and Romania also sent supplies the previous day.
World aid has started arriving in India as it struggles to combat what has been described as a humanitarian disaster.
The first U.S. flight carrying oxygen cylinders, regulators, rapid diagnostic kits, N95 masks, and pulse oximeters arrived in the Indian capital Delhi on Friday. "Just as India came to our aid early in the pandemic, the U.S. is committed to working urgently to assist India in its time of need," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter.
"Today we are proud to deliver our first shipment of critical oxygen equipment, therapeutics, and raw materials for vaccine production." OXYGEN CRISIS TILL MID-MAY
The United States will send more than $100 million in medical aid, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks, and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests. It also has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca supplies to India, to allow it to make more than 20 million doses. Shipments from other countries continued to pour in, with a third one from the United Kingdom reaching earlier in the day. Romania and Ireland also sent supplies late on Thursday.
India's severe medical oxygen supply crisis is expected to ease by mid-May, a top industry executive told Reuters, with output rising by 25% and transport infrastructure ready to cope with a surge in demand. A worker died and at least two were injured after an oxygen cylinder exploded during refilling at Panki Oxygen refilling plant in Kanpur in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh earlier on Friday, local police told Reuters.
The incident comes a week after at least 22 patients died at a public hospital in India's western Maharashtra state when their oxygen supply ran out after a leak in the tank. India will receive the first batch of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine on May 1. Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund, which markets Sputnik V globally, has signed deals with five Indian manufacturers for more than 850 million vaccine doses a year.