For the last five days, Baisistha Deka has been visiting the Hengrabari Medical Unit vaccine centre in Guwahati, the only permanent vaccine centre in the city that has access to Covaxin supplies, in the hope of getting his second dose.
“I have been coming to this centre for the last five days since only 100 people are vaccinated in a day; there is an acute Covaxin scarcity in the state,” the 48-year-old told NDTV.
The 42-day deadline for taking the second dose has already passed for him.
“It’s my 43rd day. First I tried at Sonapur, where I got my first dose. They told me they don’t have vaccine doses, then for few days I have been trying here. First I could not make it to the 1st hundred, today I came at 5 am and got my shot,” he said.
With the supply of Covaxin stretched, the Assam government has stopped administering the first dose to ensure there is enough for people who need a second dose.
There are several private hospitals in the state that have Covaxin stock, but the Rs 1,200 price tag is a barrier for many.
“My deadline ends this week. I made several rounds to the vaccine centres near my residence. I need the government to help me. I cannot afford 1,200 to 1,300 for the jab,” says Ajoy Deka, a loader at Guwahati airport.
Over 300 Km east of Guwahati, at Jorhat, Dipankar Saikia is upset as his parents have missed their second dose deadlines due to the vaccine shortage. He can afford to pay for the shot but no private hospital in Jorhat is offering the service. And travelling to an area where vaccines are available is also difficult with inter-district movement restricted during the partial lockdown.
“We are yet to hear from any concerned authorities about the availability of the second dose, we have tweeted tagging the chief minister, health minister and NHM officials so many times and we are still unsure of what to do,” he says.
Several senior citizens, who are most vulnerable to Covid infections, have missed the second dose of the Covaxin vaccine. And many of them are comorbid.
“I am a kidney patient. On April 27, I took my first dose of Covaxin. Today is my 39th day. I have tried in every vaccine centre at Bongaigaon and even in neighbouring Chirang district but all efforts were in vain,” says Mitali Roy Choudhury, a senior citizen.
At the launch of the vaccination drive, Assam had targeted to inoculate at least 1.78 crore people.
Till date, 34.36 lakh people or 19.30 per cent are partially vaccinated in Assam. Only 8.45 lakh, which is around 4.74 percent, are fully vaccinated in the state so far.
42.81 lakh doses of Covishield and Covaxin have been administered in Assam Till June 4. Of which, over 80.82 percent were Covishield doses and 18.69 percent Covaxin.
For the second dose, Assam now plans to stock up 1.50 lakh doses of Covaxin doses. The government says it has chalked out a new strategy to resolve the crisis.
“We have collected the records of the beneficiaries above 45 years age groups who were given Covaxin as the first dose and those who are nearing their deadline and those who have also missed it, now we will be getting vaccines for 18-44 years and we will be using those to inoculate the second doses,” said Munindra Nath Ngatey, Director of Health Services (Family Welfare), Assam. He is also the State Immunisation officer.