Tinsukia: Days after Assam government suspended Covaxin’s first dose due to shortage of the vaccine, a cloud of uncertainty and anxiety is hovering over scores of residents waiting for their second dose to get complete immunity inoculation from COVID-19.
Over 125 km west of Tinsukia, in Sivasagar — which once served as the capital of the Ahom kingdom for about six centuries — an elderly couple is waiting for the second dose of Covaxin to be administered to them. Perhaps, they have missed the last date due to lack of the vaccine.
Their son, Pankaj Protim Dutta, whose Twitter profile suggests that he is an advocate at Gauhati High Court, tweeted on Monday: “My parents at Sivasagar got their 1st dodge COVAXIN on 24/4/2021. Waiting for 2nd dodge with uncertainty & anxiety. Any information regarding availability of 2nd dodge of vaccines.@keshab_mahanta @samirsinha69 @nhm_assam @NSivsagar @nath_ngatey”
However, even hours later, his tweet did not receive a concrete response.
Around 2,000 persons have crossed their 42-day timeline for second dose of Covaxin in Sivasagar district alone.
Confirming this, district immunization officer of Sivasagar Arundhati Borah said, “More than 5,000 persons have crossed the 28-day timeline and are due for second dose of Covaxin, out of which 2,000 persons have crossed the 42-day timeline.”
“Today, we administered 600 doses to various beneficiaries. The stock of Covaxin has exhausted and we shall administer the second dose of Covaxin once it becomes available,” joint director of health services S M Sarmah told EastMojo.
Emphasizing that the second dose is only a booster dose, Sarmah said, “Scientifically, it is not like that. After the first dose one can take the second dose a bit later too. It doesn’t harm the patient, rather it benefits them more.”
In Jorhat, another 100 km in the direction of Guwahati, reports of several senior citizens missing their timelines for the second dose of Covaxin are now emerging.
“No Covaxin stock in Jorhat district since last 15days. Still waiting for my 70 year age father. His deadline was on 3rd June (42nd day after 1st dose). Many are facing this issue as everyone has crossed the deadline,” Anuron Nath, a resident of Jorhat district, said.
Reports of shortage of Covaxin are also coming from Barak Valley.
Narrating his ordeal, 56-year-old Manobendra Chakraborty, a resident of Silchar, told EastMojo that he and his wife were due for the second dose of Covaxin on May 22 and the deadline ended on June 5.
“We knocked the doors of various vaccination centres after failing to reserve a slot on Cowin.gov.in, only to learn that the centres are running out of Covaxin vials,” he said.
Chakraborty said, as per experts, Covaxin’s second dose has to be administered within 42 days at the most. “My 42 days are over, the first dose has become inactive now. If anything happens to me now, if I get infected with COVID-19, or if I die, who will take responsibility?”
“I have serious apprehension on the fate of second dose of Covaxin after the deadline period has expired. The scientists had declared a timeline for a gap between the two doses. Will it be effective now? Who will bear the responsibility for this disaster?” questioned Chakraborty.
Chakrobarty said they are yet to hear from any the authorities concerned regarding availability of the second dose of Covaxin. “We and other individuals have tweeted and retweeted about this issue so many times to the health minister and chief minister, and to the NHM authorities concerned, but to no avail. We are still unsure of what to do,” he said.
The panic among citizens, who are due to be inoculated with the second dose of Covaxin, is becoming increasingly evident as more and more stories of vulnerable persons missing their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine are surfacing from various districts of Assam.
Covaxin, the indigenously manufactured vaccine by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR and National Institute of Virology (NIV), has a schedule of 4 to 6 weeks between the two doses. This was also reiterated by Dr VK Paul of the Niti Aayog during a press briefing on June 1.
However, director of health services and family welfare Munindra Nath Ngatey is hopeful that the issue will be sorted out soon.
Ngatey said, “We are expecting 20,000 doses of Covaxin on June 10. It will be distributed on priority basis among districts which inoculated higher number of citizens with first the dose of Covaxin.”
Till June 6, over 34,88,484 persons, or slightly above 19% per cent, have been partially vaccinated in Assam. Only 8,50,306 persons, which make around 5%, are fully vaccinated in the state with 43.38 lakh doses of vaccine put together has been administered – around 81% among them have been Covishield doses and 18% have been Covaxin.