CNN has confirmed at least seven states or union areas where Saturday’s rollout is affected by vaccine shortages. Although some are led by opposition party governments, they also include Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, both populous states run by the Modis Bharatiya Janata party.
During a press conference on Friday, Delhi Prime Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged citizens not to line up for shots as the union’s territory, which includes the Indian capital New Delhi, has not yet received vaccine supply.
“As soon as the vaccines arrive, we will publish proper announcements. Only then can people with appointments start coming to the centers,” he said.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, said a further 25 million doses had been ordered to meet the rollout – but these vaccines would not arrive on time.
“Therefore, the vaccination program over the age of 18 will not start in Madhya Pradesh from May 1,” he said.
The western part of Gujarat is also pushing its expanded rollout to May 15, Prime Minister Vijay Rupani announced. Vaccination for 18 years and over “begins when we receive significant doses of vaccines from pharmaceutical companies, which is likely to happen soon,” Rupani said in a virtual address posted on social media.
And in the state of Andhra Pradesh, the prime minister said on Thursday that the expanded rollout may not start until September, according to CNN-affiliated CNN-News18.
Other states have not mentioned any change in the rollout date, although their health authorities are warning of a shortage. Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, has repeatedly appealed for more vaccines, with the capital Mumbai suspending all vaccinations across the city due to shortages on Thursday.
India started the year with an ambitious goal: to fully vaccinate 300 million people by August.
The vaccination program started in mid-January, but the rollout is fraught with problems. It had a slow start with logistical problems as well as the vaccine hesitation among the population – especially towards India’s homemade Covaxin vaccine, which was approved for emergency use before the efficacy data for its third phase trial was released.
Public confidence rose slowly and vaccination rates rose – but then the second wave hit. As demand rose sharply, supplies fell sharply.
There are several contributing factors to the ongoing shortage. First, India rapidly exported a large number of vaccine doses to other countries and through COVAX, the global initiative to deliver vaccines to low-income countries. To date, India has exported 66 million vaccines.
There is also a shortage of materials, with the US prioritizing raw vaccine materials for its own domestic rollout – although the Biden administration has since said it intends to send vaccines to India.
The Indian government has encrypted to catch up with increasing urgency as the second wave accelerates. To date, the government has purchased at least 205.5 million doses of vaccines, according to data from the Duke Global Health Innovation Center – which places India among the top 10 vaccine buyers in the world. On Thursday, the country’s Ministry of Health announced that more than 10 million vaccines were in storage at states across India and 2 million more would be distributed within the next three days.
But the delays and shortages have created frustration among some local authorities, who say the central government has been too slow and disorganized in its response to the crisis.
Throughout April, vaccination centers in various states complained of delays and shortages of vaccines, with dozens being forced to close temporarily. In the state of Maharashtra, volunteer teams and health workers went door to door, bringing qualified people to be vaccinated – only to be rejected at the vaccination site because there were no more shots left.
States urged the central government to send more vaccines. But the government has pushed back, claiming that any shortage was due to the states’ own poor management or inaccurate reporting.
As frustrations grow between local, state and federal authorities, patience has long run out on the ground, with the health care system collapsing and thousands dying every day. Ensuring a stable vaccine supply with a more even nationwide distribution can be crucial to minimizing the damage when the second wave sweeps the country, experts say.
“The only solution for India is to vaccinate itself out of this pandemic,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in New Delhi. “And the world really needs to help, because if India does not solve this problem, the world is not done with Covid.”
CNN’s Jessie Yeung reported and wrote from Hong Kong. Manveena Suri reported from New Delhi.