The launch of India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive is one of the biggest vaccination drives in the world, reaching more people on its first day than any other country. On Wednesday, 786,842 people had been inoculated at 14,119 sessions held since the launch on 16 January, according to data from the Union Ministry of Health.
But this still translates into a total coverage rate of 55%—every day i.e. 100 people are chosen and asked for shots for each session, and on average, about 45 of them do not show up.
India has approved two emergency vaccines this month, the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, a government-backed, indigenous Bharat Biotech vaccine.
In compliance with the instructions, all Covishield and Covaxin vials have to be used and discarded within four hours of opening. In the case of Covishield, there are 10 doses in each vial, while Covaxin has 20 doses.
Officials in at least six states said that doses of coronavirus vaccines will be wasted on Wednesday because people do not show up to receive their vaccines, mainly because of fears about potential adverse reactions, The Hindustan Times reported.
Vaccine hesitancy resulted in doses being wasted in Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Assam, where recipients failed to turn up for their shots on time, or at all.
Coronavirus Vaccines Wasted in at least 6 states
A senior health official in Delhi said that if the hesitancy wasn’t as high as it really is now, perhaps people would be queuing up, and we could have sorted them into 10 slots to minimize waste.
While Delhi government officials said they have not yet compiled data on the total number of doses wasted so far, health department officials said the initial estimates suggest that an average of five doses are being wasted every day at 81 vaccination centres.
“We did not lose any unit on the first day of the vaccination, as we had reported 100 per cent turnout. Both 100 registered health workers have chosen to be vaccinated. However, we lost two doses of the second vial the next day, when only 38 healthcare workers came forward,” Amravati District Health Officer Dilip Ranmale told the Hindustan Times.
As per State Public Health Director Niranjan Mishra, “The wastage rate in Odisha has been well under the 10 per cent norm mandated by the Union Health Ministry. Since each vial contains either 10 or 20 doses, a vial is opened as per the inflow of recipients. For instance, 8 vials are opened when there are 80 people at a vaccination site.”
Officials noticed that the loss of doses was not consistent and because they were in vials of 20, further doses of Covaxin had to be thrown away at certain places.
“It is difficult to mobilize 20 health care workers at a time in the case of Covaxin, given that the functioning of the hospital should not be interrupted,” said Dr Binod Kumar Singh, superintendent of the Nalanda Medical College Hospital in Patna, Bihar where 25 per cent of the doses were discarded.
Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan of Tamil Nadu has said that some of this problem is inevitable. “Unused doses are inevitable because some sessions will have fewer beneficiaries, while other sites will have more beneficiaries per day than the prescribed 100,” he said.
TS Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine of the State, noted that “Each vial has 10 doses, and if only five people come in, we either have to deny vaccination to these five people, or we have to waste five doses.”
Immunization officer Kuldeep Singh Martoliya in Uttarakhand said the state had agreed that it would open vaccine vials only after approximately 10 vaccination candidates line up. “In addition, to ensure that doses are not wasted, there is strict supervision over vaccinators,” he said.
As the covid shots were kept in sub-zero temperatures, a total of 1000 doses of Covishield vaccine were wasted at a hospital in Assam’s Cachar district.
Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the incident could have occurred as the officials concerned were unable to store the vaccine properly due to a lack of training. The Minister told the hospital that senior officials would go to the hospital to investigate the lapses.