Government asks Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech to lower price of COVID vaccines: Sources

Express News Service
NEW DELHI:  Even as the country is gearing up to open the floodgates of vaccination for all (18 years and above) from May 1, the drive may get off to a slow start owing to acute shortage of supply.  The liberalised vaccination drive comes at a time when Covishield and Covaxin supply is limited. Already, in many states, those above 45 years are struggling to secure slots for their first or even second dose. 

Serum Institute, with a production capacity of 6 crore doses a month, and Bharat Biotech with a capacity of 1 crore doses, are too stretched to meet the huge demand even though all efforts are on to raise their production capacity quickly. 

Experts say the shortage will continue for some time as foreign supplies may not be available for several weeks. Sources said Russian vaccine Sputnik V may be available by May-end.  According to health ministry officials, the Centre has procured over 17 crore vaccine doses so far and is looking to procure another 58 crore by September, which will be sufficient for the 34 crore-odd priority groups (45 years and above). States and private hospitals will have to arrange on their own for vaccinating those in the 18-44 year group. 

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“Where is the vaccine for the youth? It is easy to make an announcement,” said public health expert Antony Kollannur. He feels vaccination for the 18-44 year age group should have opened only after completion of the second dose of health staff and frontline workers as well as completion of first dose of all above 45 years. 

India would need 188 crore vaccine doses considering its 94 crore adult population, says economist R Ramakumar. It may be a humongous challenge, however, to procure that many doses even by year-end as the government has not made any prior agreement with any foreign vaccine makers. 

Mumbai to give jab only at pvt hospitalsMumbai: Registered citizens in the age group between 18 and 44 years will get their Covid vaccines only at the vaccination centres of private hospitals for now, the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation said on Tuesday