There is widespread unease regarding India’s imposing inoculation target in the context of healthcare establishments having large piles of unused vaccines going past their expiry date. However, officials say the vaccine wastage fears are unwarranted.
Private hospitals have tackled the issue by cutting the price of shots, using corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds to vaccinate people for free, and exchanging doses with other hospitals to use up idle stock.
While the Serum Institute of India (SII) — maker of Covishield — has been encouraging hospitals to buy from those having doses in excess, instead of placing fresh orders.
Another boost could come in the form of a policy to vaccinate children below 18 years, helping accelerate demand and clear out expiring doses.
These measures are more closely related to Covishield with its six-month shelf life, as opposed to Covaxin’s one year. As of November 12, India had fully vaccinated 36.2 crore people, or 26.2% of its population.
Private hospitals in Pune district with around 2.5 lakh doses — a large chunk of which will expire either in January or February — are not seeing vaccination demand despite offering price discounts.
Private players had stocked up on vaccines after availability improved in June, expecting summer demand to stay. However, they failed to factor in the public sector that picked up three times the doses privates did, and then gave shots free-of-charge.
The concern has been more acute in big urban centres as India may lose about 5-6% of the unused vaccine stock. Most states, however, reported little wastage in the public sector.
Hospitals have now been limiting procurement to small batches and vials nearing the expiration date are being used first.
(With inputs from TOI)