By Hilal Mir
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Vaccination has come to a near halt in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a fresh COVID-19 lockdown was imposed on Thursday evening, officials told Anadolu Agency.
A top health official supervising anti-coronavirus operations in the region told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity that supplies of vaccines from outside have been stopped since Thursday for reasons that have not been communicated to them.
He believes that if any government health centers are vaccinating people, it is from leftover stocks since no new supplies are arriving in the area. Vaccine supplies are expected to resume in a couple of days, the official said.
“One can only presume as to what could be the reason for this acute shortage. Since the government has announced vaccinating the 18-45 age group from May 1, it could be rationing the supplies. Every state or union territory gets its share of vaccines,” he said.
However, an official spokesman tweeted on Friday morning that vaccination for the 18-45 age group would not begin on May 1, but “from a date that would be announced later once the vaccine supply is established.” For the over-45 age group, vaccinations will continue.
The demand for vaccines in Kashmir has picked up during the past week, which saw a devastating second COVID-19 wave swept across India, killing thousands of people and infecting more people every day than anywhere else in the world since the pandemic erupted last year.
Mehraj-ud-din Wani, a 58-year-old resident of Srinagar’s Bemina neighborhood, told Anadolu Agency that the three vaccination centers in the vicinity where he went on Friday had run out of vaccines.
Arif Khan, a resident of the Sanat Nagar locality, said he went to a nearby health center on Thursday for the vaccination of his parents, who are both in their late seventies. The center had exhausted its stocks.
“I then went to the Kashmir Government Nursing Home at Gupkar, but returned empty-handed too. It’s scary,” he said.
Tahir, a paramedic at a health center in Srinagar who requested to be identified only by his first name, said before the horrific stories of deaths in India made headlines, not many people would visit the center for vaccination.
“We would literally beg people to get vaccinated, as a lot of misconceptions hindered government efforts at mass vaccination. However, over the past few days, we have seen a lot of people. A day before yesterday, we had a hard time pacifying a crowd who were beating up on someone they said was trying to jump the queue,” Tahir told Anadolu Agency.
On Thursday, Jammu and Kashmir saw its highest-ever single-day spike as 3,474 tested positive and 24 died of the viral infection.
Manoj Sinha, the region's lieutenant governor, said on Thursday that the administration was prepared to handle the "emerging situation" and that the regional government had ordered 12.3 million vaccine doses.
About 2.3 million people have received single or both doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the region (population 12 million-plus) so far.