Mumbai: The Maharashtra government’s ambitious plan to launch the vaccination drive for the 18-45 age group, covering 8.5 crore people in the state from May 1, has hit a major roadblock according to Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope. He said the state could not procure Covishield from the Serum Indian Institute as until May 24, 2021, the SII is bound to deliver the manufactured vaccine doses to the Central government as per its contract.
He said, ”I spoke to SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. He said that the Centre has procured the vaccines to be manufactured over the next month. Thus, we cannot buy any for another month. The state will not be able to procure the vaccine from the SII for at least a month.”
Tope said the state government would have to depend on the Centre for the additional supply of vaccines. According to Tope, the state government had already approached Bharat Biotech for the supply of Covaxin but it has yet to send a quotation.
Registration for vaccination of citizens above 18 years of age will start from April 28 on the CoWin App. The government will decide on free vaccination for the poor but for those who can afford to pay in the 18-45 age group will have to do so.
Tope admitted that foreign vaccines would be 8 to 10 times costlier than the two Indian vaccines but said if the producers agreed to supply it at a lower price, the government was likely to opt for these. He further said the shortage of vaccines was due to short supply from the Centre. He informed that the state was currently administering vaccines to around 3.50 people daily but could not increase this number to 6-7 lakh per day for want of additional doses.
However, the Centre clarified that until May 25, 2021, the SII had not contracted all its production to the Centre, and therefore, till that date, state governments will be able to procure vaccine from the SII.
In order to expand and liberalise the countrywide vaccination drive, the Union Government had, on April 19, 2021, announced the Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy, to come into effect from May 1, 2021.
A key feature of this strategy was that the ‘Vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the Govt. of India and would be free to supply remaining 50 per cent doses to state governments and in the other than Govt. of India channel”. State governments were free to purchase the vaccine doses from the vaccine manufacturers.