Gangtok: Along with the latest lockdown in Sikkim till June 14, the Sikkim government announced that it would vaccinate 65,000 individuals in June this month. 

So, the question arises, has Sikkim been allocated 65,000 vaccines? Where will these vaccination drives be carried, again in Gangtok only, or the rapid COVID spreading rural Sikkim?

Speaking with EastMojo, Sikkim Health Director-General and Secretary Dr Pempa Tshering Bhutia clarified that the state has been allocated only 15,430 vaccines for now. “The government is also considering using 65,000 vaccines, which is the target for June. 9,900 have been vaccinated. Now, the 11,000 doses have been increased to 15,000 vaccines for June. We cannot do much on vaccines from our end, we are buying the 18-plus vaccines which we can use as per state’s convenience. But 45-plus vaccines are controlled by norms from the central government. Through permission, we are trying to resolve the concern. We have got a good signal from the central government that we are going to get it within this week. Manufacturing will ensure distribution”.

Sikkim health department has been trying to use the surplus vaccine from the 45 plus age group for the 18-plus age group as both were Covishield vaccines. “Some of the 45-plus age group vaccines may be nearing expiry. Around 9,000 vaccines are reaching the state soon for that age group. When it comes, we will first prefer to use those that are about to expire from the existing stocks. There are very few people from the 45-plus age group coming, as most may have been covered. When we can cover more in the current period, we will be able to cover the maximum population”, stated Dr Bhutia. 

In the second wave, COVID 19 cases were mostly centred around Gangtok, so the state government vaccinated most in the state Capital, but not all. Some 9,940 vaccines for the 18-plus age category were administered from a few centres from Gangtok including the Hospitals and UPHCs reaching as far as Ranipool, 11 km away. Some 10,500 people were vaccinated as there was no wastage reported. Sikkim has the lowest vaccine wastage reported in the country.

Now, the spread has reached rural areas, hence, vaccination in June is planned mostly for rural areas. Gangtok will have online registration, with easy access to technology and the internet. But in rural areas, the State health department will mostly be carrying out onsite registration. The team will register the individuals on the spot. Dr Bhutia simplified the debacle on vaccines, by saying, “The distribution of the vaccines even in rural areas will happen as per the population. South Sikkim will get more, followed by West Sikkim which are recording daily cases. Accordingly, rural parts of East Sikkim and North Sikkim will also get their dosage as per their population density”.

Health Department urged most in Gangtok to opt for online registration as the population density is the most in the State. “In rural areas, PHCs will conduct online registration. There, the village COVID 19 management committee will also aid the people. When we cover the rural populace, it will be a big success. Steering Sikkim to a safer zone”, stated the Health Department official. 

As per the previous announcement, the State is likely to receive the 15,000 plus doses by June 8 as there are no vaccines for the 18 plus age category. Resulting in health workers and frontline workers devoted to vaccination remaining idle currently. 

The High Court of Sikkim suggestion on vaccinating the entire population with ‘meagre’ 14 lakh requirement in the State. “The government has sanctioned funds ready for vaccination of all. We have approached Serum Insititute multiple times. Even if they cannot deliver now, we have urged them to at least take the sanctioned funds and provide us when you can. For the sanctioned package, when they accept the funds, we will be assured that we will get it. But they do not accept. We had placed a request for 5,80,000 vaccines. But we failed to include workers in the pharmaceutical companies in the targeted vaccine quota. The previous estimate of 5,80,000 was done through the electoral roll. We realized there are many others in the 18 plus age category. Taking all of them, we felt that there will be a need for a population of almost 3.5 lakhs hence we demanded 7 lakh vaccines”, stated the Health Secretary.

On CRH getting more than the State, the state government asserted, “Priority is given by the central government even to private hospitals, to encourage them in the pandemic. It discourages footfall in the government hospitals”, stated Dr Bhutia.

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