Centre clears the air on procurement of Covishield vaccine for states

Covishield coronavirus vaccine | Photo: PTI
State governments will not have to wait till May 25 to procure Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield vaccine, the union health ministry indicated on Thursday evening.


The ministry issued a statement dismissing claims by Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope that it has contracted SII's entire Covishield production till May 24.


"There have been some media reports suggesting that Serum Institute of India (SII) has contracted all its production till 25th May 2021 to the Centre, and therefore till that date the state governments will not be able to procure vaccine from SII. These media reports are based on incorrect facts and are without any basis," health ministry said without referring to the Maharashtra health minister's comment.


On Wednesday, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had a virtual interaction with SII CEO Adar Poonawalla regarding procurement of vaccines.


Asked on this state health minister Rajesh Tope said “Adar Poonawalla has informed that SII’s entire production has been booked by Centre till May 24. So it is clear we will not be able to procure vaccines for persons between 18-45 years till then.”


While the Centre has disputed Tope's remarks, there are other issues  which could result in a lackluster launch of the universal vaccination on May 1.


Registration of persons over 18 years for vaccination will begin on April 28 but states and private hospitals may still not be able to provide jabs to them from May 1.


Further, Bharat Biotech, which manufactures Covaxin, is yet to declare its price at which it will sell its vaccine to states and private hospitals, delaying the process.


Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, which is bringing in Sputnik V to India, said it was trying to import the first batches of the vaccine from Russia by the end of May.


Pfizer said it would sell to the government immunisation programme and for India it would be at a “not for profit” price.


Adar Poonawalla, SII chief executive officer, has said the signing of contracts with private hospitals would start in a couple of weeks and the supply by the third or fourth week of May.


This implies that there would be hardly any doses available to private hospitals across the country for those between 18 and 44 years.


A hospital administrator operating a chain of hospitals said: “There can be some photo-ops and symbolic vaccinations, let’s say, for a group of college students, on May 1. Doses for this phase would not be available to use by then.”


Hospitals have begun negotiation with vaccine makers to gauge the volumes they can procure.


“We are targeting to have the first batches (of Sputnik V) imported by Q1, and are trying our best to have them by the end of May,” a DRL spokesperson said.


Pfizer has said it would engage with governments only to sell its vaccine during the pandemic.


“We note certain press reports citing a price for American vaccines in India. As far as Pfizer is concerned, this information is incorrect. During the current pandemic situation worldwide, Pfizer has maintained that its priority would be to exclusively support governments through supply of its vaccine only to governments for their immunisation programmes. This would be our approach in India as well,” a Pfizer spokesperson said. The company further added it had adopted a distinct pricing structure for high, middle, and low/lower-middle-income countries.


“For India, Pfizer has offered a not-for-profit price for its vaccine for the Government immunisation program. We continue to be in discussion with the Government and remain committed to make our vaccine available for deployment in India’s immunisation programme,” the company said.


On Tuesday the Centre announced its accelerated phase 3 strategy to open up vaccination to everyone above 18 years and gave flexibility to states and private hospitals to procure them.


States have begun discussion with vaccine manufacturers and some like Assam, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh have promised free doses for their residents.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel