New Delhi: Delhi, along with a bunch of southern Indian states, today joined several others in taking the global-tender route to procure COVID-19 vaccines even as domestic supply fails to keep up with rising demand. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Odisha have already chosen this option amid the searing second wave of the pandemic.
The Centre says it’s so far provided over 18 crore doses to states and Union Territories for free. They will receive 7,29,610 additional doses in the next three days.
“Over 90 lakh COVID Vaccine doses are still available with the states and Union Territories to be administered,” the Union Health Ministry has said, according to a PTI report.
Yet, many states and Union Territories still face so much shortage that many are now prioritising recipients’ second doses over the first so as to not lose the vaccine’s efficacy.
“Till now, we had depended only on vaccines supplied by the Centre…Now, we have been instructed to float the tender and to complete the process within seven days,” said Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister and State Covid Task Force head CN Ashwath Narayan.
His state will procure two crore doses to vaccinate those in the age group of 18-44 years.
Addressing a press conference today, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia even alleged that the BJP-ruled Centre was “forcing” state governments to invite global tenders.
“The Central government raised a question…why we haven”t passed a global tender to procure vaccines. The Centre already exported vaccines that could have been used in India, and is now sowing a discord among states,” Mr Sisodia said.
“If states are asked to purchase vaccines internationally through global tenders, then the state with the largest coffers would unfairly procure the maximum number of doses. This will lead to fights among them…” he said.
In a letter written to the Centre, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal demanded that the vaccine formulae of Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin be shared with other companies to scale up production.
Citing shortage, AAP leader Atishi Marlena had said that centres in Delhi where Covaxin was being administered to those in the 18-44 age group will have to be shut down after Tuesday evening if stocks weren’t replenished.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are eyeing global tenders, too, for Covid vaccines. The Andhra government is set to float one in a day or two for doses from foreign manufacturers, according to state Principal Secretary (Health), Anil Kumar Singhal.
“We have already placed an order for purchase of Sputnik V vaccine but Dr Reddys Laboratories, the local manufacturer, said it will give clarity on supplies only after May 15 after assessing the production capacity,” Mr Singhal said.
The foreign manufacturer has to secure the regulatory and statutory approvals from the Government of India, though. “Without that we cant administer the vaccine,” Mr Singhal told PTI.
Uttar Pradesh has already flagged off the process for four crore doses. It may directly procure a large amount of vaccines like Sputnik V besides those developed by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, PTI reported.
“It is felt that complete vaccination is the best way to protect precious lives of the people. Therefore, the Cabinet allowed the state government to go for global tender and get vaccines at the earliest,” Odisha Chief Secretary SC Mohapatra said.
Every month, 50 percent of the total Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) cleared vaccine doses of any manufacturer are procured by the Centre, while the remaining 50 per cent are for states and private establishments.
According to the Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, COVID-19 vaccination is free at government vaccination centres that receive doses from the Centre for eligible population groups comprising healthcare workers, frontline workers and people above the 45 years of age.
However, states and private hospitals have to procure vaccines to immunise persons in the age group of 18 to 44 years.