Covaxin: Delhi proposes, Bharat Biotech disposes, says Dy CM Sisodia

Supply denied on BJP government’s directive; now AAP govt forced to shut down 100 immunisation centres, says Delhi Deputy CM

Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, has urged the Centre to step up the import of COVID vaccines

Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of India’s only indigenously developed COVID vaccine, the Covaxin, has refused to supply the capital with “additional” doses of the vaccine, said Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi. The denial came on the orders of the Centre, he claimed.

Delhi had asked for 1.34 crore doses of two COVID vaccines in all — 67 lakh each of Covaxin and Serum Institute of India-manufactured Covishield. Delhi, which has run out of Covaxin supply, sought a consignment, but Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech turned down the request, its letter saying it only makes “dispatches as per the directives of the concerned government officials”.

It’s Central government officials they’re obviously referring to, Sisodia is reported to have said at a press conference.

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“We sincerely regret that we cannot make any additional supplies as required by you,” he quoted the company’s letter as saying. The letter, a copy of which is shared on Twitter, is signed by Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Biotech.

Delhi, which has been among the worst hit by the second wave of COVID, along with Maharashtra and Karnataka, has been facing a severe vaccine shortage. “Our reserve stock has been exhausted. The centres administering Covishield vaccines are functioning but we have had to close the centres administering Covaxin,” said Sisodia. This means, the state government has been forced to close down over 100 vaccination centres located across 17 schools.

Call for imports

Sisodia urged the BJP government at the Centre to import more doses of the COVID vaccines and channel them to the state governments. “Importing vaccines and making them available to state governments should be the Centre’s responsibility. The state governments should be responsible for smooth and fast immunisation drives,” he said, per media reports.

Criticising the Centre for its earlier policy of exporting vaccines, he said: “The Centre should act as the government of a country. They should carry out their responsibility and stop all exports.”

From May 1, the Centre has expanded the vaccination drive to include 18-to-44-year-olds. However, they need to register themselves on the CoWIN app or portal, and are administered vaccines subject to availability.

Direct procurement 

While for those aged 45 or more the Centre handles immunisation, for other adults, the state governments have been directed to procure vaccines directly from sellers.

And yet, Pune-based Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech, the only domestic COVID vaccine manufacturers, have been mandated to sell at least half their stock to the Centre. The rest can be sold to state governments and healthcare institutions. While Dr Reddy’s Laboratories is handling imports of the Sputnik V COVID vaccine from Russia, these are yet to be available for administering.

State governments across the country have complained of a severe vaccine shortage. A slow vaccination drive is suspected to be among the key reasons for India’s tragic struggle with the second wave of COVID.

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