Why is it that the Indian government has compensated the two vaccine companies (Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech) for additional vaccine doses, but the total stock of vaccines has decreased and vaccination rates have decreased? India's massive vaccination campaign, which began on January 16 this year and ended in early April, reached a peak of around 4 million vaccinations per day. Despite India's decision to lower the age limit and make those above the age of 18 eligible for the vaccine, the rate of vaccination has dropped to 2.3 million doses per day. To place this number in perspective, the Serum Institute of India produces 2.4 million doses of vaccine per day, not including the development by Bharat Biotech.
The availability of complete vaccine stocks adds another layer of uncertainty. There is still little information on the actual vaccine stocks still available with the central government, as well as its proposals for procuring and distributing additional stocks. It's not as if the businesses don't have inventory. Serum, for example, has an inventory of about 40 to 50 million doses in various stages of quality control, according to Financial Express Online. On average, the organisation produces 2.4 million doses per day, which take 28 days to complete quality control checks and be released by the National Control laboratory.
However, the government's most recent announcement on vaccine stocks does not seem to paint a very positive image of the existing stockpile. The Indian government announced on Thursday, May 6th, that since the start of the vaccination campaign, the central government has given over 171 million doses to states and union territories at no cost. It claims that over 8.9 million (89 lakh) doses are still available with the states/UTs as of the 6th of May. Furthermore, it claims that over the next three days, over 2.8 million (28 lakh) vaccine doses will be made available in addition to the states/UTs. For the states, this equates to 11.7 million doses. This is a stock that, at the present rate of vaccination, will be depleted in a matter of days. The question then becomes, why isn't the government disclosing the vaccine availability road map that follows its big procurement plans? When and how will this be distributed to the states? And how much inventory does it have on hand at the moment?
After all, on 3 May, the central government denying media reports that no orders had still been made to procure more vaccine doses, “clarified that 100 per cent advance of Rs. 1,732.50 crore was released to Serum Institute of India (SII) on 28 April for 110 million (11 crore) doses of Covishield vaccine during May, June and July and that as against the previous order of 100 million (10 crore) doses for supplies of Covishield vaccine, 87 million (8.74 crore) doses had been delivered till 3 May. According to sources in Serum, the balance is to be supplied in the coming week. In addition, the government had also announced that “100 per cent advance of Rs. 787.50 crore was also released on 28 April 28 to Bharat Biotech India Ltd (BBIL) for 50 million (5 crore) Covaxin doses during May, June and July and that as on 3 May, as against the previous order of 20 million (2 crore) doses, around 8.8 million (88 lakh) doses of Covaxin had been supplied.