If no additional supplies are received, the city’s vaccinations will completely stop on Saturday, said Kishori Pednekar, Mumbai’s mayor. “We are anxious,” she said. “To stop the second wave, we need this.”
Several Indian states have reported dwindling vaccine inventories in recent days. In the eastern state of Odisha, authorities temporarily shuttered 700 vaccination centers — half the total — due to a lack of supplies, said P.K. Mohapatra, the state’s health secretary.
“We have a shortage of vaccines,” he said Friday, adding that he was not aware of when fresh stocks would arrive. “Whatever is available will last until tomorrow.”
Experts believe that a lack of social distancing, waning natural immunity and new variants of the virus — including a “double-mutant” variety first found in India — are behind a second wave of infections raging across the country.
To counter the surge, India opened up its vaccination drive at the start of April to everyone over the age of 45, vastly expanding the pool of people eligible for the vaccine.
The central government in New Delhi says there is no shortage of supplies and has accused state authorities of mismanaging the situation. Harsh Vardhan, the health minister, called talk of shortages “fear mongering” and said more than 40 million doses were in stock or nearing delivery to states.
That India could face a supply crunch comes as a surprise: It is home to the Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which has a partnership to manufacture the vaccine jointly developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. More than 90 million vaccine doses have been administered in India, the vast majority of them made by Serum. India has also exported more than 64 million doses.
In recent weeks, however, worries about a mismatch between supply and demand have grown. India put the brakes on vaccine exports as infections increased. V.K. Paul, a senior health official, said in an interview on March 31 that a “delicate balance” was required and that India hoped to resume exports within weeks.
Paul said the Serum Institute is producing about 60 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine a month and that Bharat Biotech, another Indian firm, is producing 10 million doses a month of a locally developed vaccine called Covaxin. India is currently vaccinating more than 3 million people a day on average.
T.S. Singh Deo, health minister of the central state of Chhattisgarh, said his state nearly ran out of doses earlier this week. It subsequently received new shipments and now has stock for three days’ worth of vaccinations, he said.
In the earlier phases of vaccination — largely limited to health-care and front-line workers — the numbers were small, Deo said. “As soon as you went into larger numbers, the challenge was on the production availability.”
In the state of Maharashtra, currently home to the country’s worst outbreak, a handful of districts have reportedly suspended vaccinations altogether due to a lack of supplies.
Reports of shortages are also cropping up elsewhere in the country. Tanu Singh, a manager at a hospital in Ghaziabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh, said the facility had “zero” vaccines as of Thursday but hoped to receive a fresh supply on Saturday.
“It was going smoothly until the vaccination was opened for people above 45,” said Singh. The hospital’s administrators placed a notice at the reception counter informing people that they “deeply regret” not having vaccines.
Taniya Dutta contributed to this report.