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15 crore vaccine doses expected in August delays plan of 1 crore daily shots

Talks are still on with Moderna, Sputnik yet to be procured for the national Covid vaccination programme, which means Covishield and Covaxin will remain the mainstay.

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New Delhi: With no new vaccine manufacturers coming in, India’s Covid-19 vaccination is likely to stay in the 50 lakh-per-day bracket in August too.

The vaccine “visibility” for next month, according to NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V.K. Paul, is about 15 crore doses. This means just about 50 lakh doses will be administered  daily, provided there is zero wastage.

Replying to a question from ThePrint during a Covid press briefing of the health ministry, Dr Paul Tuesday said, “We will bring specific numbers to you in the next meeting but we feel we have the visibility of about 15 crore doses or so … as you would appreciate they (vaccines) are undergoing testing, etc., but, yes, in terms of visibility, we are visualising to the tune of about 15 crore doses.”

In July so far, India administered about 9.80 crore doses (9,80,08,612) at a pace of 36.29 lakh doses daily. This is lower than the June average of nearly 39.89 lakh doses daily.

The government maintains that its target is to administer one crore doses per day, and its expected vaccine availability between August and December is about 135 crore doses.

Health ministry officials said states have been informed about the August vaccine availability.

In Parliament, where the monsoon session is underway, the government last week said that a total of Rs 9,725 crore had been spent so far on the Covid-19 vaccination programme, “including procurement of vaccines and operational cost for vaccination”.

The information was given in response to a question by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool MP Mala Roy.

Also read: Govt trashes reports on missing target of administering 50 cr Covid vaccine doses by July-end

State of supply

According to government officials, Bharat Biotech is currently supplying a little over 2 crore doses of Covaxin per month while the Serum Institute of India is providing more than 10 crore doses of Covishield. In August, Covishield count could cross 12 crore.

However, sources in the health ministry told ThePrint that unless new vaccines come in, any significant increase in vaccine availability seems unlikely.

On whether Moderna’s mRNA vaccine could be expected to come to India soon, a senior health ministry official said: “Talks are on. There is a lot of to and fro happening. We will come back to you when there is a decision.”

Ministry officials also noted that with Sputnik V being manufactured in the country, it is now in contention for government procurement in line with the policy to procure only those vaccines manufactured in the country. There are, however, are concerns about the cold chain requirement.

“The vaccine is already available (in the private sector). For us to procure it, we also have to look at the associated programmatic costs. It (the vaccine) needs to be stored at -18 degrees Celcius, which means cold chain requirements change dramatically. That is something we need to look at,” a second official told ThePrint.

Also read: Why 25-50% of vaccine side-effects are ‘anxiety-related and not a result of Covid jab’

States asked about oxygen shortage deaths

Having courted a major controversy by replying in Parliament that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and UTs during the second Covid-19 wave, the Government of India has now written to states asking them about such deaths.

Confirming that such a letter has been sent, another senior health ministry official said: “States were participating in meetings almost every day and telling us how much oxygen they needed. But nobody ever said in an official meeting that people had died. Even Delhi, which made so much noise, told the court that there were no deaths because of oxygen shortage. Chhattisgarh has also officially maintained that.”

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: ‘Virus is going to do what it wants’: Covid-weary world is facing a distressing reality check


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