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Vaccine shortage may stall inoculation drive in state

Kolkata: With most of the private hospitals having exhausted their stocks of vaccine doses and the state government facing acute shortage of the same, vaccination drive in Bengal may come to a halt soon. Meanwhile, some doctors' attributed the current situation to the 'directionless policy' of the Centre.

The private hospitals may have to shut their inoculation drive as they are yet to forge an agreement with the manufacturer of the vaccines. Till now the State government was supplying the vaccines to the private establishments but the existing norms would cease to exist from the next month as the private hospitals would have to procure the vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers. As a result, the people who have already received the first dose from various private hospitals may be asked to appear in any of the government-owned Covid vaccination centers (CVCs) from the next month, sources in the Health department said.

A senior official from a top private hospital said they established contact with a manufacturing company but the firm failed to give any assurances citing that they did not receive any instruction from the Centre. The private hospitals are now waiting for the State government's recommendations following a meeting scheduled on April 30. Bengal till Tuesday conducted vaccinations on 1.4 crore. Around 1,89,839 people vaccinated in the past 24 hours.

"There is no clarity in the formulation of new norms by the Centre. It is not possible for us to continue vaccination from next month. We will have to wait for the April 30 meeting when we will probably get to know about the next course of action. We heard from the government that those scheduled to get a second dose after April 30 can take it at public health facilities," a senior official of another private hospital in the city said.

A senior doctor from the city preferring anonymity said it takes around five months to complete an agreement between the two sides, private hospitals and the manufacturer. It is most unlikely that private hospitals can strike a deal with the manufacturing company within a short span of time unless the State government comes as a rescuer and supplies the doses.

"Forget about the launch of inoculation drive of the people belonging to the age group of above 18. Vaccination for those above 45 who are already in the process will come to a grinding halt as there will be no vaccine. Vaccination in private hospitals is uncertain from next month," said Dr Kaushik Lahiri from West Bengal Doctors Forum.

Private hospitals have been asked to return remaining stock of vaccination before April 30. No private CVCs will be allowed to use existing stock of vaccine for any beneficiaries after April 30.

Meanwhile, vaccination has already stopped at Kothari Medical Centre, Fortis Hospital and CMRI Hospital. Stocks in many other top hospitals like Belle Vue Clinic, Woodlands, AMRI groups are about to be exhausted. They are still vaccinating people with whatever little number of doses they have.

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