Covaxin might have been granted approval by the World Health Organization but many private hospitals in Kolkata said there was barely any demand for the indigenously developed Covid vaccine.
Among the reasons is the higher price of the vaccine compared with Covishield.
The refusal of other countries to let in Covaxin recipients till recently and shortage of supply during the initial stages of vaccination led to most people opting for Covishield.
A dose of Covaxin costs more than Rs 1,200. A dose of Covishield costs Rs 780.
Several private hospitals said the demand for Covaxin was so less that for months they had not ordered fresh stocks.
The health ministry’s decision to extend the use-by period of Covaxin from six to 12 months from the date of manufacture has given the hospitals some extra time to use the stocks.
“We are waiting for the government to approve vaccination of the 2-to-18 age group. We can then finish the unused stocks, said Rupak Barua, group CEO of AMRI Hospitals.
The three units of the hospital chain are administering less than 30 doses of Covaxin daily, compared with around 200 Covishield doses.
The group has around 4,800 doses of Covaxin left. The last time the hospital had procured Covaxin was in August. It is procuring Covishield every month, Barua said.
Charnock Hospital has stopped procuring Covaxin. “In one week, around 20 doses of Covaxin are administered. We had ordered the last consignment of Covaxin nearly two months back,” said Ipsita Kundu, CEO of Charnock Hospital.
At the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, on several days only one vial of Covaxin (containing 10 doses) is opened.
“We are not ordering fresh stocks of Covaxin since there is no demand. However, once the vaccination for children starts and with some clarity on the date of commencement, we’ll order stocks again,” said R. Venkatesh, regional director of Narayana Health, which runs the RN Tagore hospital.