Covid-19 Vaccination Of 18 To 44-Year-Olds Could Ramp Up, Shows Latest Supply Data
A health worker prepares a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the heath center in the village of Bazrak, Uttar Pradesh, India (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Covid-19 Vaccination Of 18 To 44-Year-Olds Could Ramp Up, Shows Latest Supply Data


States may soon be able to accelerate the pace of vaccinating 18 to 44-year-olds, based on the latest vaccine availability data published by the union health ministry. But that comes at the cost of stagnating vaccination rates for the 45+ age group.

As many as 4.87 crore doses will be made available to states and private hospitals through domestic vaccine manufacturers till June-end, said a ministry statement on Wednesday. Assuming it means May 1 to June 30, that’s roughly 10 lakh doses a day for those aged 18 to 44 years. Currently, the average daily vaccination rate for this cohort is 3.7 lakh.

However, this also means slower vaccinations for the 45-plus-year-olds and frontline workers. The central government said it will provide states with a total of 5.86 crore vaccine doses from May 1 to June 15 for this cohort. That amounts to roughly 12.4 lakh vaccine shots per day compared to the average daily rate in May of 13.2 lakh.

BloombergQuint calculated this by deducting the vaccine doses already consumed till May 19 from these supplies and estimating a daily average based on the future supply.

Also read: Maharashtra Leads India’s Vaccination Drive With Over 2 Crore Jabs

That is no surprise. Since India expanded its vaccine programme to include all adults, vaccination rates for the 45+ age group have nearly halved due to shortage. In April, when the country was vaccinating only this older cohort, its daily average was 25.8 lakh.

This is mainly due to India’s new vaccine policy that involves dual procurement channels for states. Under the new policy, effective May 1, Indian vaccine manufacturers were to provide up to 50% of their supply to the centre and the remaining 50% to states and private players in the open market.

States would then receive vaccines from two channels:

  • Free doses from the central government to vaccinate those aged 45 and above and frontline workers.
  • States and private hospitals could procure doses directly from domestic vaccine manufacturers to vaccinate population aged 18-44 years—but the allocation is decided by the central government.

Also read: Centre Still Controls India’s ‘Liberalised’ Vaccine Policy

From May, vaccine manufacturers have had to split their supply into two, which is why vaccination rates for one group rose at the expense of the other. Overall, vaccination rates have fallen from April peaks. Most likely because early stockpiles ran out when the eligibility criteria was widened to include larger population groups.

India is currently severely short of vaccines. It intends to vaccinate 90 crore people (180 crore doses) but has current domestic capacity estimated at 8.5 crore doses per month. While that is expected to rise to 16.7 crore doses per month in July, it will still take several months at best, over a year is more likely at this rate, to twice jab all 90 crore people.

In early May, due to a shortage several states diverted their own procurements towards time-bound delivery of second jabs to those above 45 years. As a result, vaccination of the younger group is either on pause in some states or moving at snail’s pace in others.

That could change if these supply estimates by the centre are fulfilled. According to BloombergQuint’s estimation, while there may be a slowing in vaccinations for the older cohort, states may be able to more than double the daily vaccination rate of 18 to 44-year-olds. This could get further boosted if imported vaccine supplies become available soon.

At least seven Indian states—Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand—have floated global tenders looking to procure Covid-19 vaccines from foreign manufacturers. The municipality body of Mumbai, India’s financial capital, has also separately floated a global tender seeking to inoculate all of its adult population within 2 months.

While a global vaccine shortage will mean limited opportunities to import, some supplies will kick in soon. Indian pharma major Dr. Reddy’s is pilot testing Russian Sputnik V vaccine and hopes to scale up imported supply soon. Soon, Sputnik V will also be manufactured domestically.

BloombergQuint’s estimations are based on vaccine supply data published by the central government. They are intended to offer a broad view of daily vaccination rates and potential changes. Supply volatility, last mile delivery issues, vaccine hesitancy, registration glitches may affect these numbers.

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