The health department has adopted a strategy to “rationalize” the vaccination programme and instructions have been given to administer the available doses mainly for inoculating the beneficiaries registered for the second jab.
State immunization spokesperson Munindra Nath Ngatey, said, “Wherever possible, the first dose is also being administered. But the instruction from the highest level in the state health department is that the second dose vaccination must not come to a halt.”
Even as Ngatey said there was no official order to stop the first dose, there has been hue and cry after a notice that was served to private hospitals in Dibrugarh to stop the first dose got widely circulated on social media. District immunization officer, Dibrugarh, allegedly asked private hospitals in the district to stop the first dose on April 9.
Joint director of health services, Dibrugarh, Dr Krishna Kemprai, however, said the instruction was unauthorised and she was made the signatory. “The district immunization officer issued the order without my knowledge. I have issued a showcause notice to him,” she told TOI.
Kemprai added that returnees from outside Assam are on the radar in Dibrugarh, as they are believed to have spread the virus.
Health officials across districts are in a dilemma due to vaccine shortage at a time when the public, responding to the government’s call, are knocking on the doors of private and government hospitals to get the shots before the fresh surge in positive cases reaches its peak.
Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had earlier said that a new consignment of vaccine will arrive in the state on Tuesday, but health officials said no fresh stock of vaccine reached Assam till evening. Sources in the health department said the available vaccine stock in the state is estimated to be 1.4 lakh as on Tuesday, but this might be over soon after Rongali Bihu.
“Repeated reminders have been given to the Union health ministry in the last few days but there is no confirmation on when the new stock will arrive,” said a health source.
Johar Choudhury, a resident of Doomdooma in upper Assam, said, “Myself and my wife got the first dose on March 15 in a government hospital in Doomdooma and both of us went for the second shots of Covishield today. Perhaps due to the scarcity, the hospital staff told us to come on next Monday.”
In the absence of adequate vaccine doses and the simultaneous surge in Covid cases after more intensified testing, health authorities only have one thing to say: follow Covid protocols. After carrying out 1.02 lakh tests, 583 new Covid cases were detected across the state on Monday — which was highest in terms of daily tests and cases in months. Offline classes have also been voluntarily called off in two schools in Guwahati, after some students and teachers got infected by the virus.
“No vaccination is going to take away Covid completely. All must follow Covid-appropriate behaviour,” said Assam NHM director Lakshmanan S.