Pfizer, Moderna order books full, will contact Centre when they have Covid vaccine surplus: Health ministry

By: |
May 25, 2021 6:00 AM

The Punjab and Delhi governments have said they failed in their attempt to directly procure the Covid-19 vaccines for the 18-44 age group from these global vaccine-makers with companies preferring to deal directly with the Central government.

More than 1.80 crore doses are still available with the states and UTs and another 48 lakh are in the pipeline to be distributed in the next three days, he added.More than 1.80 crore doses are still available with the states and UTs and another 48 lakh are in the pipeline to be distributed in the next three days, he added.

The country is unlikely to get vaccines from international companies Pfizer and Moderna anytime soon as their order books are full, the Union government said on Monday. Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the ministry of health and family welfare, said at a media briefing that Pfizer’s and Moderna’s order books were already full, and depending on their surplus and how much they can provide to India, these companies will reach out to the government of India. The Centre will then ensure and facilitate the supply of these vaccines to the state governments, Agarwal added.

The Punjab and Delhi governments have said they failed in their attempt to directly procure the Covid-19 vaccines for the 18-44 age group from these global vaccine-makers with companies preferring to deal directly with the Central government.

Agarwal said the central government was closely coordinating with Pfizer and Moderna for regulatory facilitation in terms of approvals and procurement-related facilitation.

The Punjab government had floated global tenders to procure vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Chief minister Amarinder Singh said they were told that the companies would, as policy, deal directly with the central government and not state government or private parties. Similarly, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said they spoke to Pfizer and Moderna but both refused to sell vaccines directly to the Delhi government. He urged the central government to import these vaccines and distribute it to the states.

Speaking on the considerable gap between daily vaccine production and daily vaccine administration in the country, Agarwal blamed it on vaccine supply logistics and testing needs.

The country was at present manufacturing 8 crore vaccine doses a month. If Serum Institute (SII) was making 6.5 crore Covishield shots a month and Bharat Biotech 2 crore Covaxin doses, that production was not immediately available as it undergoes stability and sterility test on the factory premises for a week, Agarwal said.

These vaccines are manufactured in batches and every batch has to be sent to the government’s Central Drugs Laboratory in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, for testing, which takes a day for the testing process and then these batches enter the country’s supply chain. So, it takes around 7-9 days for the vaccine to become available. After that, there is logistics and inventory management with multiple sites, cold chains and intermediate storage points. So, the vaccines would become available only in subsequent weeks. States would need to make their supply chain management robust to offer the shots just in time, Agarwal said.

The Centre has so far provided 21.80 crore vaccines to the states and UTs and of this 19.60 crore doses have been administered. More than 1.80 crore doses are still available with the states and UTs and another 48 lakh are in the pipeline to be distributed in the next three days, he added.

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