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NEW DELHI : In an effort to dispel concerns of vaccine shortage, the central government on Monday said it has already ordered 160 million doses of Covishield and Covaxin combined, which will be delivered across May, June and July. This is in addition to the more than 23 million doses that are still to be delivered from its previous orders of the two covid-19 vaccines.

The government released details of vaccine procurement after a news report said it has not yet placed fresh orders with the two Indian vaccine manufacturers—Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech—for Covishield and Covaxin, respectively.

Virus Tracker. Data by Tanay Sukumar/Mint; Graphic by Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint
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Virus Tracker. Data by Tanay Sukumar/Mint; Graphic by Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint


The Union health ministry said the government has already paid an advance of 1,699.50 crore, after deducting tax at source, to Serum Institute for 110 million doses of Covishield, as well as 772.50 crore to Bharat Biotech for 50 million doses of Covaxin. Both payments were made on 28 April, and supplies are expected to start from this month and continue till July.

The government also has about 12.6 million doses of Covishield and 11.2 million doses of Covaxin that are yet to be delivered from its previous orders of 100 million and 20 million, respectively, the health ministry said.

Business Standard on Monday reported, citing sources it did not name, that despite the vaccine shortage and vaccinations being opened up for all, the government last placed its order for 120 million vaccines in March. The government’s Monday statement did not specify when the order for 160 million vaccines was placed.

Serum Institute endorsed the health ministry’s statement.

“We remain committed to ramping up our vaccine production to save every life we can," the company said on Twitter.

Later, chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla also issued a statement saying Serum will also supply another 100 million doses separately to states and private hospitals over the next few months.

While Serum is supplying 110 million doses to the Centre at around 150 per dose, vaccines to the states and private hospitals will be priced at 300 and 600, respectively, per dose, which the company is allowed to under the government’s liberalized vaccine pricing policy announced on 19 April.

Roughly about 3 million people were being inoculated each day in April. This pace is expected to quicken after the Centre opened up vaccination for all adults starting 1 May as compared to only healthcare and frontline workers and people of age 45 years and above last month. However, trends over the last few days have been in the opposite direction. After peaking at 4.3 million on 6 April, daily vaccination over the month steadily slowed, with only 2.7 million vaccinated on Friday.

On Saturday, the first day of phase 3 of vaccination, only about 1.8 million were vaccinated, of which only about 86,023 were adults in the 18-44 age group. This was primarily due to a shortage of vaccines in various parts of the country.

The shortage has been so acute that, often, many vaccination centres have run out of vaccines even to administer the second dose.

The health ministry said states currently have more than 7.8 million doses available in their inventory that are yet to be administered, while over 5.6 million doses will be provided to them in the next three days.

To shore up supply, vaccine manufacturers are boosting capacity, but this is expected to take time.

Serum Institute is planning to raise Covishield production to 100 million doses per month by July from 60-70 million currently.

Poonawalla also clarified that his company is trying to scale up its vaccine manufacturing capacity in the quickest possible time, but said “vaccine manufacturing is a specialized process. It is therefore not possible to ramp up production overnight".

Bharat Biotech is also planning to scale up its capacity in a staggered manner from 10 million doses per month to about 20 million by June, 60-70 million by August and then 100 million by September. The capacity expansion would be done through scaling up of its own plant as well as through partnerships with three state-owned companies — Indian Immunologicals Ltd, Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Corp. Ltd and Haffkine Biopharmaceuticals Ltd.

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