Prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi launched his famous 'Tika Utsav' (festival for vaccination) in April when his government had placed orders for just 18.60 crore doses of the COVID vaccines. In fact, despite the gravity of the COVID pandemic, the Modi government placed its first order for COVID vaccine only on 11 January 2021 and till 8 June 2021, its total orders are just 78.6 crore doses, reveals information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. For India’s population of about 95 crore people, who are above 18 years, there is a need of more than 190 crore doses of COVID vaccines, a shortfall of 111.4 crore doses.
Reply received under RTI by commodore (Cmde) Lokesh Batra (retd) shows that HLL Lifecare Ltd, a public sector unit (PSU), has been placing orders with the Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd (SII) and Bharat Biotech Ltd (BBL) for Covishield and Covaxin, respectively. HLL says it utilised funds from the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) and Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) for placing purchase orders for the COVID vaccines.
Despite all the hype, HLL's first order for the COVID vaccines was placed only on 11 January 2021. HLL placed an order for 1.10 crore doses of Covishield with SII and 55 lakh doses of Covaxin from BBL through the PM CARES Fund, the reply received under RTI shows. This means the first order for COVID vaccines from the government was only for 1.65 crore doses of both the vaccines, which would have provided both the jabs to 82.50 lakh people.
According to the reply received by Cmde Batra, till 8 June 2021, HLL had placed three orders for 46 crore doses of Covishield with SII from funds received from MoHFW and four orders for 5.60 crore doses from PM CARES Fund.
Similarly, the PSU had placed three orders for 26 crore doses of Covaxin with BBL using funds from MoHFW and two orders for 1 crore doses of the same vaccine from PM CARES Fund, the reply shows.
On 4 June 2021, the MoHFW sent a letter to HLL Lifecare asking the PSU to procure 25 crore doses of Covishield from SII and 19 crore doses of Covaxin from BBL. The letter says that the ministry had paid Rs2,079 crore to HLL Life for procuring 44 crore doses and the PSU will pay Rs1,181.25 crore to SII and Rs897.75 crore to BBL as 30% advance.
The letter says, "...HLL is requested to proceed with the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines as per details given below... 25 crore doses of Covishield from SII at Rs150 each (making a commitment of Rs3750 crore plus admissible taxes) and 19 crore doses of Covaxin from BBL at Rs150 each (making a commitment of Rs2850 crore plus admissible taxes)."
"HLL Lifecare is requested to direct the suppliers to supply 25 crore doses of Covishield and 19 crore doses of Covaxin to the identified consignee points across the country during August, September, October, November and December 2021 or earlier depending on completion of the previous supply commitments," the MoHFW says.
Based on 2011 census data, there are about 90 to 95 crore people 18 years and over, who are eligible to receive COVID vaccines. However, since one needs to take two doses of COVID vaccines, India would require more than 180 crore doses so that every eligible person can receive it.
Unfortunately, the delay in placing orders, procurement and the speed of vaccination shows that it will not be possible for the country to provide two jabs by December this year, as envisaged by the government. While about one third of the eligible people have received at least one dose of COVID vaccines, more than 92% people of 18 years and above still have not received even one dose.
As on 12 July 2021 at 8am, India has administered 37.73 crore doses of COVID vaccines. Out of this, 30.40 crore people had received first dose of COVID vaccines. This means only the balance 7.33 crore people have received both the doses of COVID vaccines.
According to a release from MoHFW, more than 38.86 crore COVID vaccine doses have been provided to states and union territories (UTs) so far, through all sources and a further 63.84 lakh doses are in the pipeline. "More than 1.54 crore balance and unutilised COVID vaccine doses are still available with the states and UTs and private hospitals to be administered," it added.
As per data from the CoWIN portal, during the week of 5th to 10 July 2021, average daily vaccination fell to 37.2 lakh doses from 42 lakh doses administrated during the previous week. Quoting official sources, a report from Times of India
says, while the decline in vaccination has raised concerns, the government is expecting to maintain a daily average of 40-45 lakh doses in July with an estimated supply of at least 12 crore doses this month.
"The slowdown in vaccination is primarily because of some disruptions at Bharat Biotech’s Bengaluru plant, which resulted in delay in supply of some batches of Covaxin that were expected in the beginning of this month," the source told the newspaper.
India recorded 37,154 new COVID-19 cases and 724 deaths in the past 24 hours. Active cases in the country have now come down below five lakh. The country has 4.50 lakh active cases presently and has witnessed a total of 4.09 lakh deaths so far, data from MoHFW shows.