Gangtok: Even as the Union ministry of health and family welfare has been regularly updating on the consumption and usage of COVID-19 vaccines in the states, and in the country as a whole, the latest data for Sikkim seems to be a bit “misleading”, said a senior health official.
As on Friday, May 28, the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses available in Sikkim is 1.27 lakh, as per the Centre’s data. However, the ground reality seems to be quite different.
EastMojo carried out a reality check on the availability of vaccines in Sikkim. As per the eVIN or the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network designated to every state, Sikkim has only 1,00,140 doses left, that too, for the age group of 45 years and above, which are given free of cost.
Now, one may wonder why the ‘missing’ 27,000 doses, which may otherwise seem like a small number, is a big deal. In a state like Sikkim, where the cumulative dosage for 18-44 age group, is less and the struggle to procure additional doses from the Centre is a hurdle, 27,000 doses will be a big addition, say officials.
State immunisation officer Dr Phumzay Denzongpa admitted that the data is indeed “misleading”. Speaking with EastMojo, Denzongpa said: “As per the report we sent to the Centre at 9:30 this [Friday] morning through eVIN, we have 1,00,140 COVID-19 vaccine doses. These are all for the age group of 45 years and above, which are given free of cost to us by the Centre. The numbers don’t add up, even if we add the 18-44 age group, which don’t come free.”
Meanwhile, the state exhausted its supply for the 18-44 age group on May 27, said officials. “There is no way we have 1.27 lakh vaccines in the state right now,” said Denzongpa.
Sikkim had placed a request for 11,000 vaccine doses for the 18-44 age group earlier this month, of which only 9,900 were allocated to the state.
“This was not even a free vaccine and something that the state had to pay for. It got exhausted in just 10 days this month, after we started vaccination for the 18-44 age group on May 16,” Denzongpa said.
The concern of vaccination in the state has been a subject of discussion even in the High Court of Sikkim, with the judiciary requesting the state to present its vaccination policy.
However, on the bright side, the requisition made by the state for 11,060 vaccine doses, as part of the second phase of vaccination for the 18-44 age group has now seen an improvement.
“Now, they have increased the allocation. Today, we received a mail that the allocation has been increased from 11,060 to 15,430 vaccine doses,” said Denzongpa.
While some people may say the latest allocation of 15,430 vaccine doses may have been added to the Centre’s latest figure, Denzongpa clarified, “These 15,430 doses allocated for the entire month of June are not with us yet. We are yet to pay for them, so there is no way it could have been added.”
Even for the age group of 45 years and above, the additional 31,000 doses are yet to arrive, said the health official. “This free supply will come from Kolkata to Bagdogra, from where we will have to procure. Even that was supposed to be sent today, but it is still not here yet.
“Thankfully, we have the remaining doses for the 45-plus age group. With monsoon around the corner, getting the consignment from Bagdogra will be another challenge for us,” the official added.
Meanwhile, EastMojo tried to confirm if the Central Referral Hospital (CRH) has been able to procure the 24,000 doses that are scheduled for June.
CRH medical superintendent Yogesh Verma said, “We have booked 24,000 doses but we are yet to receive them. We may get them by next week. We have paid for them already, costing us around Rs 630 per dose.”
Even Varma admitted that the latest allocation could not have been added to the Centre’s figures, as the hospital has reached out for the vaccines privately and not through the state government.
“Earlier, for the age group of 45 years and above, we had purchased around 9,000 doses from the Serum Institute of India. It got exhausted already. The latest batch of 24,000 doses will come only by the first week of June,” the official added.