Later rather than sooner: Govt unveils roadmap for supply of Covid vaccines

Over 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines could become available for India between August and December this year, according to estimates given by vaccine manufacturers, the government said.

Amid a crippling shortage of vaccines across the country, the Centre has for the first time said that it has been in talks with three global manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — to supply to India.

However, the government said on Thursday, the three pharma giants have communicated that they would be able to open discussions only in “Q3, 2021”.

Even so, over 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines could become available for India between August and December this year, according to estimates given by vaccine manufacturers, the government said.

“We have contacted manufacturers and sought information on the availability of vaccine for August-December… In this period, 216 crore doses would become available in India. The vaccine will be made available for all as we move forward…,” Dr. V K Paul, head of India’s Covid-19 Task Force, said.

Paul said the government has “formally” approached Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J to provide doses to India, and offered to assist them in various ways.

“From the beginning, the Department of Biotechnology and Ministry of External Affairs together have been in touch with Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. It is still ongoing,” Paul said.

“We had formally asked them (the pharma companies), and also held a discussion. We asked them: ‘Would you please want to send doses to India; please would you like to manufacture in India?’ We told them that we would find partners and would assist them. We also asked them if they want to do fill and finish,” he said.

However, the three companies have indicated that they do not immediately have free capacity, and that they would “talk” only after a few months.

“We have good relations but they have said that they are moving according to their plan; and on vaccine availability they said they will talk in Q3 (third quarter) of 2021. The process of discussion has intensified and we are connected with Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J. It is our hope that they will come forward to increase the availability of vaccines in India,” Paul said.

Paul also said that India hopes the three manufacturers might possibly transfer their technology to domestic manufacturers to increase the availability of vaccines.

“This is happening at the highest diplomatic channels. We also invite them that they should manufacture their vaccines in India; we also hope if they can undertake a technology transfer. India will support in every possible way,” he said.

On Thursday, the Centre said 7.30 crore doses would be available in May for the vaccination drive. Out of these, 1.27 crore doses that are being directly procured by states are in the pipeline, and 80 lakh doses are being procured by private hospitals, the Centre said.

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