320 doses of Covaxin - Bharat Biotech's coronavirus vaccine - have been reported missing from a cold-storage facility at a government hospital in Rajasthan's Jaipur.
The HB Kanwatia Hospital, which caters primarily to the nearby working-class neighbourhood of Shastri Nagar, said its stock of 200 doses was checked and accounted for on Sunday.
The following day - Monday - a shipment of 489 doses was received. However, when stocks were re-checked the hospital found 320 doses were missing.
Security guards were posted outside the cold storage unit in which the vaccines were stored.
The hospital has filed a FIR (first information report) with local police and an investigation is underway. Apart from figuring out how the vaccines went missing despite the presence of guards, the police will also examine CCTV footage from the hospital.
Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who is from Rajasthan, took the opportunity to mount a political attack, accusing the Congress-led government of "record-breaking performance in failures".
"... only case of vaccine theft from Rajasthan! Under the state's patronage criminal acts are so high even coronavirus has failed... congratulations to the Chief Minister for his record-breaking performance in failures," the BJP leader tweeted.
देश के वैक्सीन चोरी का इकलौता मामला राजस्थान से!— Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (@gssjodhpur) April 14, 2021
राज्य सरकार की सरपरस्ती में अपराधियों के हौंसले इतने बुलंद है कि कोरोना भी इनके आगे फेल है।
विफलताओं में रिकॉर्ड तोड प्रदर्शन के लिए मुख्यमंत्री जी को बधाई!#RajasthanCrisis
The 'case of the missing vaccines' is particularly distressing because it comes as the country faces a continuing massive surge in fresh infections - over 1.84 lakh in the previous 24 hours, and over a lakh per day since April 7 - and an alleged shortfall in the supply of the life-saving drugs.
This morning Jaipur city reported 1,325 new cases in 24 hours - the biggest single-day spike in the second wave - while Rajasthan reported 5,528 to take its active caseload past 40,000. Data indicates that the state is among those showing the steepest daily increase in new Covid cases.
On Saturday Rajasthan joined Punjab, Maharashtra and Delhi in warning the centre of fast-depleting vaccine stocks. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said vaccination centres in the state would close in 48 hours unless a fresh shipment was sent.
State authorities said these shipments are not being made, at least not in the numbers requested.
On Monday Rajasthan - among those states reporting high vaccine uptake - vaccinated only around 1.5 lakh people, whereas last week it averaged around five lakh per day.
The centre has played down the warnings; Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said there was enough stock, and that states were to blame for inefficient management.
On Monday the centre cleared Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for use in the country - the third after Covaxin and AstraZeneca-Oxford University's Covishield, and with a significantly higher reported efficacy rate of 91.6 per cent.
Faced with demands to widen the vaccine basket, the centre has now also asked for more applications - including that by Pfizer, which filed a request in January but had approval delayed.