As India continues to battle the Covid-19 cases, the Central Government has issued fresh orders to procure Covid-19 vaccines from both the Serum Institute of India and the Bharat Biotech.
The government has placed an order to purchase 25 crore doses of Covishield and 19 crore doses of Covaxin, Dr VK Paul, Member-Health, Niti Aayog, said on Tuesday.
This comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre would take over the state procurement quota and provide free jabs to state governments for inoculation of all above the age of 18.
“In immediate follow-up of the prime minister’s announcement of these changes in the Guidelines of National COVID Vaccination programme yesterday, the Centre has placed an order with Serum Institute of India for 25 crore doses of Covishield and with Bharat Biotech for 19 crore doses of Covaxin,” the Union Health Ministry has said.
The Centre has also placed an order to purchase 30 crore doses of Biological E’s vaccine, which will be available by September this year.
“We should wait for the company (Biological E) to announce the price of their vaccine (Corbevax). It will depend on our negotiation with the company, under the new policy. The financial aid that has been given will meet part of the price,” Dr Paul said.
Dr Paul also said that these 44 crore doses of Covishield (25 crore doses) and Covaxin (19 crore doses) will be available till December 2021, starting now .
“Additionally, 30% of advance for procurement of both the vaccines has been released to Serum Institute of India & Bharat Biotech,” Dr Paul added.
The central government will provide free coronavirus vaccines to states and union territories for inoculation of all above 18 years of age from 21 June, PM Modi said on Monday, announcing that the Centre will take over the 25% state procurement quota.
Asserting that the Covid-19 vaccine supply would be increased significantly in the coming days, PM Modi said the Centre has now decided to buy 75% of jabs from vaccine makers for free supply to states, while private sector hospitals will continue to procure the remaining 25%.
The new policy takes back the onus of vaccine purchase from the states. The finance ministry said today that the new programme will cost around ₹ 50,000 crore and the Centre has the necessary funds.
The procurement issue became a matter of huge controversy as the coronavirus ravaged the country in the second wave and exposed the massive shortcomings in the healthcare sector, especially in rural areas.
The Supreme Court strongly criticised the vaccine policy, calling it “prima facie arbitrary and irrational” and demanded a blueprint of the way ahead. The judges strongly hinted that a do-over was in order.
“Let me tell you from my experience as a Judge — the ability to say that you’re wrong is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength,” Justice Chandrachud had said.
The Centre has repeatedly blamed the states for the vaccine policy of May that went awry, saying the states wanted to buy the vaccines and under the federal structure, the government was in no position to refuse.
“Many states demanded vaccinations to be decentralized. Some voices even questioned prioritising certain age groups, including the elderly,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his address to the nation last evening.
Through the day today, the government and its officials provided repeated communications to the media — on and off the record — about the steps being taken to increase vaccine availability.