Phase III: Maharashtra to immunise 8.5 cr people, to seek Centre nod to import vaccines

With 67 per cent of its population aged over 18 years, Maharashtra has a target to immunise 8.5 crore people in the third phase of the vaccination drive, beginning May 1, and requires 17 crore doses.

Also, the involvement of the private sector is set to increase with the state government planning to allow camps in corporate offices to vaccinate their staffers.

On Tuesday, the state Cabinet decided to request the Union government to allow Maharashtra import Covid-19 vaccines available in the international market.

With a population of around 12.8 crore, Maharashtra has till Tuesday vaccinated 14.09 lakh people with both doses and 1.12 crore with the first dose. This means, till now only 1.6 per cent of the targeted adult population has been fully immunised, and 13 per cent has received the first dose. It leaves over 8 crore people to get either second or both doses.

At the current rate of vaccinating 3 lakh to 3.5 lakh people per day, the state will need eight to nine months to cover its entire adult population.

“We will begin talks with Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to understand the rates fixed. Till now, there is no communication from the government regarding price capping,” a government official said, adding that the private sector will be allowed to vaccinate their employees by tying up with private hospitals.

The Union government, in a video conference with all states on Tuesday, briefed them about the next phase of vaccination. While the Centre will provide some stock based on performance and requirement, states will be also allowed to purchase their own stock. “We will eventually allow municipal corporations to procure as well,” a state official said.

State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said, “The chief minister has said that the vaccination drive will be conducted in full swing. The government will cut other expenses to make funds available.”

NCP minister Jitendra Awhad said that given the limited vaccine production in the country, the state would ask the Centre for permission to import its choice of vaccines. Haffkine Biopharma, which had received approval to manufacture Covaxin, will only be able to deliver the first batch of doses by early 2022.

“Special permission should be given to Maharashtra to import various vaccines such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sputnik to vaccinate its large population. The CM will soon write to the Centre requesting the same,” said Awhad.

In Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will double government vaccine centres to 100, allow large corporate houses to vaccinate their staffers and go for “aggressive vaccination” to cover an estimated 80 lakh adult population. The city currently has 127 vaccination centres. Of these, 78 are private.

“We are hoping to immunise 25 lakh people per month. Each ward will have four government vaccination centres apart from private ones. By this rate, we will be able to vaccinate the population in six months,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani.

The BMC will need 1.6 crore doses for this exercise. Till Tuesday, it had vaccinated 2.76 lakh people with both doses, which is 3.2 per cent of the targeted population, and 17.66 lakh have received the first dose. The city needs to immunise 77.2 lakh people with either second or both doses to cover 100 per cent of its adult population.

Kakani said BMC plans to go “full throttle” to quickly vaccinate the population. “We may start mobile vaccination vans with iced-line refrigerator to store vials. This way, the slum population can be vaccinated,” he added.

Officials said if allowed, BMC will directly procure vaccine from suppliers. “We have funds. There will be no hesitance in procurement. At this point, BMC has scaled up infrastructure and can only depend on vaccination to fight the pandemic,” a senior official said.

For the next phase, private hospitals may have to purchase their stock from the open market. Currently, they purchase stock from the government.