Vaccine shortage in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana becomes meme fodder on social media

The state stopped giving the COVID-19 vaccine first dose to the citizens this month as the backlog of the second dose has to be cleared
Image for representation | Pic: Express
Image for representation | Pic: Express

A hero's struggle to get the second dose of a particular brand of vaccine for the heroine is the movie's storyline, a writer tells the producer during a story discussion.

That's a cartoon that has gone viral on social media in the two Telugu states in recent days.

"The villagers extend a grand welcome to 'Singannapalem simham' (lion), who is coming after getting the second dose of the Coronavirus vaccine," says another meme, displayed on a huge hoarding with an onlooker taking a bewildered glance at it.

These jokes, rib-tickling they sure are, hold a mirror to the current scarcity of the Coronavirus vaccine, particularly Covaxin, in Andhra Pradesh.

At least 17,93,555 people in the 45-plus age group, and some healthcare workers and frontline workers, in the state are due for the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine but the government hardly has any stock left in hand.

So much so that it has now stopped giving the first dose of the vaccine to anyone. The Government of India allocates 10 lakh doses to the state per fortnight and so far this fortnight only 8.5 lakh doses were delivered.

The state directly purchased five lakh doses from the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech and is now awaiting the delivery of the second tranche of 12 lakh doses.

"In the first fortnight (of May) we have so far vaccinated 5,96,789 people (with the second dose) and another 6,96,941 are due. Another 10,96,614 will be due for the second dose in the second fortnight," Principal Secretary (Health) Anil Kumar Singhal said.

The state stopped giving the COVID-19 vaccine first dose to the citizens this month as the backlog of the second dose has to be cleared.

In all, the state received 73,49,960 doses of vaccine (60,60,400 doses of Covishield and 12,89,560 of Covaxin) from the Centre.

So far, a total of 73,00,460 doses (first and second) were administered to healthcare workers, frontline workers and those above 45 year of age in the state.

Vaccination for persons in the 18-44 age group has not started as scheduled from May 1 due to shortage of vaccines.

"We have to get 9.91 lakh doses of Covishield as per normal allocation. Of the 3.43 lakh Covaxin doses allotted, 1,43,930 were delivered to us now. We got an additional 3.50 lakh doses of Covishield yesterday," Singhal said.

Accordingly, the government is now planning to complete the second dose vaccination this month so that the first dose could be started from next month.

Sources in the Health Department said technical issues also hampered the vaccination programme.

The Union Ministry of Health on April 30 rejected the state government's request for a modification in the Cowin App to enable vaccination of the 45-plus aged persons from the vaccines it directly purchased.

After several rounds of correspondence, the Centre finally accepted the state's proposal to make necessary changes in the CoWIN App.

"Now that we started purchasing vaccines directly, the modifications in the App will enable us to go ahead with the vaccination of those above 45 years. Our priority now is to complete the second dose for all those who are due," a senior health official said.

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