Srinagar: The COVID-19 vaccines remain in short supply in the Muslim-majority areas of Kashmir with most of the districts halting inoculation in the last few days. The doses which have been procured by the authorities have largely been administered in the Jammu region which is a BJP stronghold in the Union Territory (UT).
Authorities have nearly completed the vaccination for all the people up to 45 years of age in Jammu district from where BJP clinched most of the seats in the last Assembly elections in 2014 in Jammu and Kashmir. The vaccines administered were over 5.68 lakh there and in the first dose it got 4,38,396 vaccines and in the second dose, 1.29 lakh people were inoculated in the district.
The second dose given in the district is more than what many districts in the Kashmir region, which have largely voted for PDP and National Conference (NC) in the last elections, have been getting. By 13 May, as per the figures of the Directorate of Family Welfare, the second dose of vaccine administered in district Anantnag in the Kashmir division was 22,046, Budgam 26,963, Bandipora 11,206, Ganderbal 13,868, Kulgam 11,983, Kupwara 18,707, Pulwama 22,051, Shopian 10,920 and in Srinagar it was 34,309.
In the other districts of Kathua and Udhampur with a sizable Hindu population, the vaccines administered in the second dose were 29,728 and 28,931 respectively while as it was 1,20,794 in Jammu district. In the first dose also while 4,07,917 vaccines were given in Jammu district, 1,22,148 in Kathua district and 1,07,477 in Udhampur district it was significantly lower in Kashmir with Shopian receiving 64,058 shots and other districts like Bandipora getting 70,411 vaccines and 72,473 were given in Ganderbal. The shots administered in Srinagar were 1,47,382.
The Jammu and Kashmir UT is being directly governed by the Central government through a lieutenant governor (L-G) after the scrapping of the semi-autonomous status on 5 August, 2019.
In Kashmir, the supplies are now running dry at nearly all the health centres in the last few days and none got vaccinated in most of the districts including the capital Srinagar. Several doctors said that as the second wave of coronavirus has gripped Kashmir, they are not able to fulfill the “demand for the vaccination” among the local residents in Kashmir.
Last month as the authorities enforced a complete lockdown across Jammu and Kashmir, and with positive cases and the deaths climbing up, people began to turn up in large numbers at the vaccination centres but couldn’t get the jabs. Dr Suman Gupta, assistant director, Family Welfare said that they have ramped up the vaccination across Jammu region and the inoculation for people up to 45 years of age has been completed by 98 percent in the Jammu district.
“We have also started the vaccination for the people between 18-44 year age group at one of the centres in Jammu district and will further speed up the administration of shots here,” she said.
In Kashmir, however, the doctors have been turning away people from the hospitals due to shortages. Health department officials said that they were facing shortages and “didn’t have vaccines to roll out” the jabs in the age group of 18-45. Earlier the Central government had been supplying the vaccines to the Union Territory, but officials said that they have now been asked to place the orders directly with the Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India.
“We are facing acute shortage of vaccines and after 1 May we were asked to place the orders directly with the pharma companies,” said a senior official of the health department, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
As soon as the people above the age group of 18 were eligible for the vaccination after 1 May, the authorities informed them that they were facing shortages.
“Vaccination will not be walk-in but only through pre-registration of slots. No slots have been opened for booking a session. Please wait for the announcement of the vaccination start date for the 18-45 age group,” the Department of Information and Public Relations tweeted earlier. However, in the last 15 days there were no open slots available for the vaccination online.
The authorities had however ruled out the shortages. Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Baseer Ahmad Khan, said earlier at a press briefing that the Union Territory had placed an order for 1.24 crore vaccines. Across the UT over 28,54,213 vaccines have been administered so far from among a population of over 1.2 crore. Health department spokesperson, Dr Mir Mushtaq, however, said that the vaccination can’t be administered to all the people in “one-go”.
“The demand for the vaccines has suddenly climbed up and we are getting vaccines to administer them in adequate numbers,” Mushtaq added.
Former minister and senior Peoples’ Conference leader Imran Ansari said that there should be equity in the distribution of vaccines in the regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
“We care for the people of all regions as much as we care for ourselves but prioritizing one region and ignoring the other amidst the deadly pandemic is regrettable. We demand an absolute uniformity in the supply of vaccines in Jammu and Kashmir. Precious human lives are getting consumed and the shortage of vaccines is only making things worse,” he said in a statement.
The vaccination was slow even as the government’s own figures earlier revealed that those who died at the hospitals had mostly remained unvaccinated and disease was less severe among those who had received a single or both the shots.
A National Health Mission analysis on the mortality in the UT between 15 Apr-12 May showed, “93% of COVID +ve critical cases who died in this period were unvaccinated and 7% were partially vaccinated.”
Several doctors in Kashmir however said that they were not able to administer shots and can inoculate people only after their supplies were replenished. Many above the 45 age group have also either remained unvaccinated or got only one dose so far.
In the absence of vaccination, authorities have been largely asking the people to refrain from stepping outside their homes and “adhere to the lockdown measures that have been put in place”. To enforce the lockdown thousands of police personnel remain deployed on the streets who are preventing any public movement. The lockdown measures will remain under force till 24 May in the Valley.