These vials are being brought from Visakhapatnam in cool packs and are being sold to those who want to administer it. (Representational Photo: AFP)
Vijayawada: Covid-19 vaccine is finding its way to black market given huge demand for it especially among people aged between 18 and 44 years in several parts of Andhra Pradesh.
According to reliable sources, a 10-dose vial of Covishield is being sold at about Rs 20,000 and Covaxin at nearly Rs 25,000. These vials are being brought from Visakhapatnam in cool packs and are being sold to those who want to administer it. After receiving the vial, it is being secured in a household refrigerator. The one who manages to get a vial of the vaccine, mobilises 10 persons to share the dose of 0.5 ml each and also its total cost. They engage a private health worker to administer the jab for all of the 10 persons at a common place and pay for the service and for disposable needles and syringes.
Some people in Rajamahendravaram in East Godavari district recently got Covishield vaccine from Visakhapatnam through some middlemen and took the jab. The cost of the jab varies from time to time given the risk involved in bringing it to the black market. However, the cost of Covishield is relatively less in black market when compared to Covaxin, as it is available aplenty. The Andhra Pradesh government is getting good quantities of the vaccine on a regular basis. The middlemen are ready to get even Covaxin vials but for a good price.
So is the case in several districts where the vaccine is getting diverted to black market.
The modus operandi of the middlemen is to lure health workers with a good offer for getting vials of vaccine. Health workers draw more vials at Covid vaccination centre claiming that more people are waiting for the jab. As per the rule, the vial should be discarded after breaking its seal within four hours irrespective of the number of doses administered, but the health workers set aside some full dose vials and use the existing ones to administer the jab.
With no complete vigil on usage of vials, the entries in the registers get manipulated and the required number of vials reach the middlemen for a good price. The middlemen in turn transport the vials in cool packs to the place of demand and sell them.
The main reason for increasing demand for Covid-19 vaccine in black market is attributed to the state government’s decision to complete administration of the second dose of vaccine to people aged above 45 years on priority basis before starting the first dose of vaccine for people aged between 18 and 44 years. However, given the surge in the number of Coronavirus infections and the resultant deaths, young people are increasingly becoming panicked. As the majority of them are either studying or at work, they prefer to get the jab by any means and at any cost, assuming that they will be safe from infection.
On the other hand, Covid-19 vaccine is also getting misused as health officials are succumbing to the pressure from local politicians and other influential persons to allow administration of the jab to youngsters despite state’s clear direction to optimise the available doses of the vaccine by giving to the people aged above 45 years as a second dose only. Some people in the guise of healthcare workers and frontline workers also got the jab with no bar on their age a few days ago.
Director of health Dr Geetha Prasadini said, "Diversion of Covid-19 vaccine illegally in some parts of the state has come to our notice and we have entrusted the task to vigilance and enforcement wing to keep check on such practice as they are already dealing with diversion of Remdesivir injections at present. Moreover, if the cold chain fails to be maintained, the utility of the jab is doubtful and at times, it may cause Coronavirus infection also. I have also instructed district immunisation officers to keep vigil on such illegal practice and also misuse of vaccines and cautioned them. We are facing a lot of pressure from influential persons for specific types of vaccine and we are handling it properly without succumbing to pressure."