Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government is planning to procure Sputnik V and other vaccines developed by foreign manufacturers, such as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as the state looks outside India to ramp up its stock to vaccinate its people.
Sources in the UP government told ThePrint that they have got feelers that these foreign vaccine manufacturers may participate in the global bid floated by the state government last week, the first state in the country to do so.
“These manufacturers have vaccine stock. It’s quite possible for them to supply. We are hopeful that other Covid vaccines manufacturers will participate in the bid,” said a source.
UP floated a global tender to procure 40 million vaccine doses in the next six months. On Monday, the Odisha government also decided to float global tenders to procure foreign-made vaccines, while the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is to also float a global tender to procure vaccines directly from the international market.
However, only those vaccine manufacturers who have been approved by the Government of India, or who will get approval in the coming days, will be selected, UP Additional Chief Secretary (Information & MSME) Navneet Sehgal told ThePrint.
Sputnik V, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, is currently the only foreign-made vaccine that has been approved by the Narendra Modi government for production and use in India.
The central government has said it is in “active discussions with Pfizer, Moderna, J&J (Johnson & Johnson) and other vaccine developers/manufacturers outside India to facilitate their imports”.
The UP government sources quoted above ruled out the possibility of Pfizer getting selected. The vaccine developed by the company has to be stored in ultra-cold temperature, which might not be feasible as the state government has specified the temperature — between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius — at which the vaccines can be stored.
UP eyes 6mn doses/month from selected manufacturers
The bid document specifies that the selected manufacturers will have to supply 6 million vaccines directly, every month, to the nine warehouses in the state.
“The vaccine manufacturers, who get selected, should have their own cold chain transportation facility or have contract with transporting agents who have such facilities in India to transport the vaccine from the manufacturing unit to the warehouse,” Sehgal said.
UP, like all other states, is currently getting Covid vaccines Covaxin and Covishield, developed by Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India, respectively.
“The pre-bid meeting of the tender is on 12 May. We will get to know the response from the vaccine manufacturers by tomorrow. We are hopeful of a good response. We will be able to finalise the manufacturers by May-end,” Sehgal added.
In UP, 1.9 crore people have got their first vaccine shots so far, while only 27 lakh have got both the doses.
“We have a large population. That’s why we are exploring all avenues to ramp up our vaccine stock,” Sehgal said.
9 cr individuals in 18-44 yrs category waiting for shots
UP has 9 crore people in the 18-44 age category, and a total of 43,202,130 in the 45+ category, who need to be vaccinated.
“Like elsewhere in the country, there is a shortage of vaccines in UP also. But despite that we have started the vaccine drive in the 18-44 age bracket,” Sehgal said.
So far, 1 lakh people have been given the first shot in this age bracket. Initially, vaccination in the 18-44 age bracket was started in seven districts only, which recorded most cases.
However, it has now been expanded to 18 districts. But all of them are in urban centres.
‘Budget is not a constraint’
Sehgal said when it comes to buying vaccines, budget is not a constraint for the UP government.
“The state government will bear the entire cost…the state is committed to giving free vaccines to each and every resident living in the state. The budget outlay of UP government is to the tune of Rs 5 lakh crore.”
The UP government has also approached Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India for direct supply of Covaxin and Covishield, the respective vaccines manufactured by the two companies.
“They have committed to ramp up their supply. From 15 May onwards, they will be supplying vaccines to the state,” Sehgal said.
UP has procured some 5 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine and another 1.5 lakh doses of Covaxin directly from the manufacturers over and above the allotment from the Centre.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mazumdar)