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At 16.4 cr doses, SII’s increased Covishield output helps India cross Aug vaccination target

Modi govt, which projected 15 crore doses would be available in August, managed to achieve its 1 crore-doses-a-day plan last week. Meanwhile, Covaxin production lags.

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New Delhi: With a day left before August ends, India has so far administered a total of 16.4 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines this month, significantly higher than the 15 crore doses that were projected to be available, and even hit its target of one crore doses in a day last week.

These numbers, officials say, have been powered almost exclusively by a booster production of Covishield doses by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which alone ended up supplying 15 crore doses in August.

The average daily vaccination so far has been about 54.69 lakh doses per day in August. While India gave out 1.03 crore doses Friday, the number dropped to 31.14 lakh Sunday, but the fact remains that the vaccination pace has picked up of late.

“Covishield upped their produce. Then of course there was some spillover (of vaccine supplies) from July. That is how we achieved the August vaccination numbers,” said a senior official associated with the vaccination programme.

ThePrint reached SII via WhatsApp for a comment on how it managed an increase in production capacity, but did not receive a response till the time of publishing this article.

However, a company spokesperson told ThePrint that the total supply of Covisheld in August was about 15 crore doses. SII had last week announced that it is targeting producing 20 crore doses per month from September. Health ministry officials said this projected target will “substantially enhance” vaccine availability from next month, with senior officials estimating that about 22-23 crore vaccine doses could be available in September.

States currently have over four crore vaccine doses available with them, with another 21 lakh in the pipeline, according to the central government.

“More than 63.09 crore (63,09,30,270) vaccine doses have been provided to States/UTs so far through Govt of India (free of cost channel) and through direct state procurement category. Further, more than 21.76 Lakh doses (21,76,930) are in the pipeline. More than 4.87 cr (4,87,39,946) balance and unutilized COVID Vaccine doses are still available with the States/UTs to be administered,” the Press Information Bureau said in a statement Monday morning.

Also read: Modi govt could reduce gap between Covishield doses amid reports of infections among vaccinated

Covishield versus Covaxin

The initial manufacturing projection that SII had submitted to the government for the month of August was 12 crore vaccines. Bharat Biotech, which manufactures the indigenous Covaxin shot, was expected to produce another 2-2.5 crore vaccine doses.

Officials said the August supply of Covaxin has been about 2 crore doses but the Covishield supply was better than expected. On 31 July, more than 3.14 crore (3,14,57,081) vaccine doses were still available with states.

This means that while SII surpassed its promised production capacity, Covaxin continues to lag. This despite the fact that Bharat Biotech started production in its Ankleswar unit over the weekend. The plant is expected to manufacture 20 crore doses of the company’s annual Covaxin output target of about 100 crore doses per year.

Covishield’s 15 crore doses per month is part of what the government budgeted for earlier this year when it projected an availability of 216 crore doses between August and December, for which it drew flak. In that projection, Covaxin was expected to achieve a monthly production of about 11 crore doses per month.

The other vaccines on that list — Bio E vaccine, Zycov D (Zydus Cadilla), Novavax (SII),  Bharat Biotech’s nasal vaccine, mRNA vaccine (Gennova) and Sputnik V vaccine — are yet to be included in the national programme.

“We are looking at about one crore doses of Zycov D may be in October — you can say it is slightly speculative. Then, Bio E has already started stockpiling without waiting for EUA to do that, so maybe by November (it could be added to the national programme),” said a senior government official.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: India to have 18-22 crore vaccine doses by September, ZyCoV D could take longer to hit market


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