The state health department and some private hospitals are in the process of procuring Covid vaccines but many hospitals are wary about whether the present demand that, public health experts said, was triggered by panic would sustain.
Many hospitals have started getting phone calls from people who want to take the third or precautionary dose, which they had not taken earlier. The calls started coming after December 22, when the Union health ministry issued an advisory for all state governments on the number of Covid cases in countries like China and the US.
Another advisor was issued asking the civil aviation ministry to randomly test 2 per cent of international passengers for Covid.
Public health expert Abhijit Chowdhury said the demand for vaccines was because of panic.
“It was seen earlier during the pandemic, too, that uptake of vaccines was directly proportional to the panic in the minds of people. This time too, there is panic among a section of the population. But if the Covid numbers don’t rise sharply in the coming few weeks, this panic will subside,” he said. West Bengal had eight new Covid positive cases on Tuesday. Peerless Hospital placed orders for 2,000 to 5,000 doses of Covishield on Tuesday.
“There is a sudden spurt in Covid vaccine footfall. Not more than 10 to 11 people were coming for the vaccine before December 22. On Tuesday, the number was 151,” said Sudipta Mitra, chief executive of Peerless Hospital.
He said the hospital has around 2,000 doses of Covishield now.
A senior official of the state health department said that they had spoken with the Union health ministry for a fresh supply of Covid vaccines.
“We have asked for both Covishield and Covaxin. We have limited stock of the vaccines, especially Covishield,” said the official.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation is running Covid vaccination from 16 centres, one in each borough. The KMC has a limited stock of Covaxin and no Covishield doses.
However, there are hospitals that said they were not procuring vaccines now. RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences has received several phone calls from people who want to take the vaccine.
“We are not planning to procure fresh doses. We will first see whether the sudden demand sustains for sometime. Otherwise, like before, we will be grappling with excess stock,” said R. Venkatesh, COO east and south, Narayana Health that runs RN Tagore hospital.
“The Covishield manufacturer has told us that the expiry for existing doses is February. That is why we are being all the more careful of procuring doses,” he said.
Some hospitals still have huge stocks from which they are ready to provide others. Medica Superspeciality Hospital has 50,000 doses of Covishield paid-up stock with the manufacturer.
“We are procuring from the manufacturer from that stock as and when required. We have procured 2,500 doses on Tuesday and an order for 5,000 doses is scheduled to be placed on Wednesday,” said Amit Ray, deputy medical director of Medica Superspeciality Hospital, Kolkata.
“If any other hospital approaches us for the vaccine, we will provide it to them,” he said.