MUMBAI: More than 700 million people across India were facing coronavirus vaccine shortages on Thursday, local media reported, as infection numbers hit yet another daily record.

Case numbers had eased in India but a second wave of the virus has since returned with a vengeance, with more than 126,000 new infections recorded in the past 24 hours, a new record.

Several regions have tightened curbs on activity while Maharashtra, the current epicentre of India’s epidemic and home to megacity Mumbai, is set to enter a lockdown at the weekend.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his second shot on Thursday, tweeting that vaccines are “among the few ways we have to defeat the virus”. He urged others to follow his lead by getting vaccinated.

India’s vast vaccination programme is reportedly experiencing problems having administered 87 million shots so far in a population of 1.3 billion people.

According to the Times of India, 10 states have stocks that will last only three or four more days, including Uttar Pradesh, home to about 200m people, as well as Bihar and West Bengal.

In Maharashtra, the state health minister issued a dire warning on Wednesday, saying supplies would run out in three days unless replenished.

“We are having to tell people that since vaccine supplies have not arrived, they should go home,” Rajesh Tope told reporters.

Major vaccination centres across Mumbai, which has recorded over 480,000 infections, were running out of doses Thursday, with the huge Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital stopping inoculations altogether.

At a government-run vaccination centre in the Mumbai neighbourhood of Dharavi, India’s largest slum, long queues formed as people waited to get a jab.

Afrin Sultana Khan, in charge of the facility, warned it would only be able to vaccinate another 440 people — its daily average — before shutting shop.

“We are trying to see what we can do to save some stock for tomorrow,” the doctor said. “Obviously we are very worried.”

She added that she had no idea when new doses would arrive.

One district in the state of Andhra Pradesh ran out entirely on Tuesday and the whole of the south-eastern region of 55m people may have no supplies left by Thursday, the Economic Times reported.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2021

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