Anxiety as Maha may get SII vaccine doses only after May 20

Sparking worries, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has informed the Maharashtra government that it can supply Covishield vaccines to the state only after May 20, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said here on Tuesday.

Tope said the availability of vaccines remains an uphill task and the state needs at least one week’s quota delivered at one go in order to inoculate the maximum number of people.

“The SII has informed the state government that it can supply the Covishield vaccines only after May 20,” Tope told mediapersons, even as the state has only 72 hours left before rolling out the vaccination drive for people in the 18-45 age group from May 1.

Expressing concern over the development, the state spokesperson of the Congress, Sachin Sawant, said that SII’s stance that it cannot supply the vaccines till May 20 since all stocks have been booked by the Modi government would put question mark on the upcoming inoculation drive for the 18-45 age group.

Slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sawant said that this is not the time to discuss lack of availability of vaccines.

“Where is your strategy? Modiji has no clue about supply of vaccines. The Centre has restricted the supplies to only two companies, and now it wants the states to buy from these two companies for the 18-45 age group,” Sawant pointed out.

Since vaccines are in short supply and the Centre will take care of the 45-plus population, he sought to know whether the PM can set a target date for completing the vaccination drive in India.

On revised prices announced recently by the SII and the government-run Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL), Tope said that the Centre’s intervention asking them to slash the prices may help.

While SII’s Covishield will be sold to the states at Rs 400/dose, BBIL will sell its Covaxin for Rs 600/dose, and the prices shall be even higher for the private hospitals.

Tope said that the state has an estimated 5.71 crore people in the 18-45 age-group and needs around 12 crore vaccines over the next several months.

“At the prevailing rates, the state will have to shell out around Rs 7,500 crore for inoculating the entire 18-45 age group population. In this situation, the state government will bear the cost of vaccinating the economically weaker sections of society,” Tope said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Health Secretary Pradeep Vyas sent letters to the two companies wanting to know how many doses they can supply each month for the next six months for the massive inoculation drive scheduled to begin from May 1.