New Delhi: India has ordered 10 crore doses of Covishield and 2 crore of Covaxin at a renegotiated price of Rs 150 per dose (with taxes), a significant reduction from the earlier Rs 210 per dose (with taxes).
Deliveries will start towards the end of the month.
The first one crore doses of Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), will start coming in from 27 March in tranches of 20 lakh doses per day. A little over 7.5 crore vaccines have already been distributed to states of which less than 4 crore (3,93,39,817) have been used so far.
The Centre has already written to high burden/mortality states such as Maharashtra and Punjab to step up vaccination. Senior officials say that the average vaccinations per day for a big state is about 2 lakh but it varies. For example Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday, crossed the 4 lakh a day vaccinations milestone, earning it a pat on the back from the health ministry.
Vaccine exports more than domestic consumption
While India is facing flak for its vaccine exports — both for commercial and diplomatic purposes — the health ministry is in favour of adopting a more protectionist approach and to “err on the side of caution” in international commitments, official sources said.
“It is important that we keep a healthy margin while determining our vaccine demand for domestic use. It is better that we err on the side of caution on this,” said a senior official.
Till 19 March, India sent out 5.96 crore doses of vaccine to foreign nations, which is almost 50 per cent more than its domestic consumption. Of these, 3.41 crore are commercial exports, raising questions about the government’s policy of making the vaccination programme fairly restrictive and not opening up domestic sales.
Manufacturers too have been pushing for opening up domestic sales in order to “cross-subsidise” the low prices that they are charging from the government.
The Government of India has already told Parliament that vaccine exports are not happening at the cost of domestic requirements. “No state is currently facing any shortage. Maharashtra at its current vaccination pace has enough stocks to last it two-and-half [to] three weeks,” said a senior health official. The Centre has asked the state to adopt a more targeted approach in vaccinations and cover more people in the worst-hit districts.
Meanwhile, SII Chairman Cyrus Poonawala and CEO Adar Poonawala Thursday had several meetings in Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and health ministry. Officials at the Rashtrapati Bhawan said it was a courtesy call.
SII is learnt to have made a commitment of manufacturing about 6-6.5 crore doses per month in the coming days.
Less than 50% healthcare workers fully vaccinated
The pace of India’s vaccination programme has also been repeatedly called to question. In the close to two months since the vaccinations for healthcare workers started on 16 January, a little over 47 lakh of the estimated 1 crore people working in hospitals and healthcare centres across the country have been fully vaccinated. Daily vaccination numbers have also been varying, touching 30 lakh one day, dropping to 19 lakh on another. The provisional report till Friday morning shows that a little over 22 lakh vaccine doses were administered in the preceding 24 hours.
“We have told the states to rope in eligible private hospitals, continue vaccinations 24/7 if required. Contrary to popular belief, our limiting factor in vaccinations is not the availability of enough vaccine doses but the willingness of state governments to innovate and look at newer avenues to step up vaccinations,” said a senior health ministry official.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)