Some states of India have shortage of covid vaccine which have floated global tenders to procure vaccines. However, the state government is uncertain about the arrival of covid vaccines. Dozens of vaccines have opted for floating global tenders to procure covid 19 vaccines, most of these states face vaccine shortage and have slowed down their vaccination in the 18-44 age-group.
Lot of Messages are rolling out from the authorities saying that a delay in getting second dose of vaccine will not impact their immunity against Covid-19 that developed after the first dose. Covid-19 survivors are being told to wait longer to get their first dose. Their natural immunity is expected to keep them safe for about six months the least.
Vaccination drive in India has gone off the script same as the Covid-19 containment strategy. When Covid-19 cases were on the decline from October 2020 to February 2021, the authorities tasked with handling Covid-19 situation within the country did not build up health infrastructure to the extent required to manage the anticipated second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The graded vaccination drive, as planned and launched in January this year, was amended under growing public pressure, intense political questioning and stern remarks from the judiciary. It was opened for all adults from May Day . Private sector was roped in, and therefore the states got liberty to acquire their vaccine doses.
The Indian firms, however, reportedly continued to figure as per the direction of the central government in supply vaccines. High demand accentuated by the flood tide of second Covid-19 wave made availability of vaccines acutely inadequate. Production of vaccines didn't increase in proportion to rising demand within the backdrop of surge in Covid-19 cases. There wasn't enough infrastructural preparation for ramping up the assembly.
Now, states are floating global tenders for procuring vaccines. Sates can only procure vaccines approved by the drugs regulator, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). Only three Covid-19 vaccines have been approved by the DCGI — Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V.
Of these, Covishield-maker Serum Institute of India (SII) is the largest vaccine producer and is based in India. Covaxin is an Indian vaccine being manufactured by the Bharat Biotech, an Indian company.
Sputnik V may be a Russian Covid-19 vaccine and its manufacturer features a commitment to provide the doses to over 80 countries. It is already running behind the schedule. Its India partner, the Dr Reddy’s Lab remains weeks faraway from supplying to Indian markets.
While the J&J advance pricing agreement with the African Union is “confidential between the parties,” according to a J&J spokesperson, a press release says the “availability of the vaccine candidate is subject to its successful approval or authorization by the national regulatory authorities of AU member states.”
Nkengasong said the difference between the announcement made in January and therefore the new deal was that the latter was just an agreement, whereas the newer deal may be a legally binding contract.
Confirmed purchase contracts include details on quantities and delivery schedules, and may include penalties for not meeting delivery commitments, Yadav said. They will also include payment terms and the portion of the money that is expected upfront versus upon delivery of the doses. Memorandums of understanding, on the other hand, don’t necessarily outline all of these areas and are hard to enforce because they are ill-defined, he said.
The states floating global tenders for vaccines are uncertain about the arrival of the jabs. This appears more like an act out of desperation or to pacify the public sentiments as the move signals that the respective state governments are trying their bid to procure Covid-19 vaccines available anywhere in the world.
India is that the biggest vaccine manufacturer which is why the central government had taken it as a responsibility to export Covid-19 vaccines when the second wave of the pandemic had not struck India so hard. Over 6 crore doses were exported before restrictions were imposed.
Chief ministers have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserting wider approval for vaccine production. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy sought involvement of more companies in vaccine production.
Reddy said the central government should direct Bharat Biotech to transfer Covaxin manufacturing technology to public sector companies capable of producing the jab. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made an identical dig in her letter to PM Modi.
The vaccine supply shortage, however, is probably going to finish not before July when new facilities of the manufacturers of approved vaccines would start rolling out vials. The Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that vaccine production was being augmented.
The central government said the total production was likely to go up to 13 crore vaccine doses by July from existing 8.5 crore a month. This includes all three vaccines approved in India.
People may have to wait till July for smoother booking of Covid-19 vaccination slot and inoculation of the jabs. States, meanwhile, might have to reprioritize vaccine beneficiaries with focus on bringing vaccine wastage to zero.