Assam was facing an acute shortage of vaccines for the 18-44 group since last week and the crisis management policy has been undertaken by the state health department to vaccinate young people in the most vulnerable districts where the positivity rate in the second wave still remains relatively higher.
“The ingredients of the vaccines for the 18 to 44 group and the 18+ category are the same. Considering the dire need of some vaccines in the districts, the government decided to convert 88,000 Covisheild from the 45+ quota to the 18+ category,” immunization spokesperson and director of health services (family welfare), Assam, Munindra Nath Ngatey, told TOI.
He said Dibrugarh, Kamrup (Metropolitan), Cachar, Nagaon, Sonitpur and Tinsukia districts benefited from the move. “It’s like taking a loan to manage the vaccine crisis. Immediately after we get some vaccines for the 18+, this volume will be returned to the 45+ share,” he added.
On June 2, the available vaccine stock for the 18+ was reduced to about 6,000 in the state, even as the state health department resolved to accelerate the vaccination from 50,000 to 70,000 per day. The same day, vaccine doses meant for the 45+ were converted to the 18+ category, taking the available vaccines for the young to around 97,000. Sources in the health department said the “vaccine conversion policy” was an internal decision of the Assam government. However, an indirect suggestion came from the Centre during a recent video conference with the state health officials.
“The positivity rate has not drastically reduced in the last one week. At the same time, there is a huge demand for vaccines from the youths. Ultimately, the decision was taken to convert a portion of the vaccines for the 18+ category with the consent of the highest level in the state health department,” said the source, adding that CM Himanta Biswa Sarma gave a go-ahead to the policy.
As of Saturday evening, there were 64,790 doses for the 18+ and for the 45+ category, 2.18 lakh doses were in store in Assam. The state has not received any consignment for the 18+ category of late, though a couple of smaller consignments of vaccines for the 45+ has arrived in the state since June 1.