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India administered 4.3 crore fewer doses of Covid-19 vaccines in May

There is no explanation from the government and the two vaccine manufacturers on the drop
alyan Ray
Last Updated : 26 May 2021, 17:52 IST
Last Updated : 26 May 2021, 17:52 IST
Last Updated : 26 May 2021, 17:52 IST
Last Updated : 26 May 2021, 17:52 IST

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India has administered 4.3 crore fewer doses of Covid-19 vaccines in May – as against April – despite expanding the target population by making everyone above 18 years eligible for the shots and registering more than 60,000 Covid-19 deaths in the last two weeks.

While more than 8.7 crore doses were administered in April, the number dropped to just about 4.4 crore between May 1 and May 25 – a drop of 50 per cent from last month.

In an affidavit submitted in the Kerala High Court on Monday, the Centre maintained that the Serum Institute of India, Pune (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad (Covaxin) currently have a monthly production capacity of 6.5 crore and 2 crore doses, respectively.

There is no explanation from the government and the two vaccine manufacturers on the drop. Queries sent to Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and Health Ministry spokesperson remain unanswered. The two manufacturers also did not respond.

Asked what could be the reason behind the government's silence on the decline, a public health expert who doesn't want to be identified told DH, "How can the worlds largest programme declare that it's stopped in its tracks!"

A top executive of Hyderabad-based pharma major Dr Reddy’s Laboratory – the Indian distributor of Russian Sputnik V vaccine - hopes for a turnaround after June 15 when the supply of Sputnik V vaccine is likely to improve.

“We do not have a full schedule of all the 25 crore doses (needed to vaccinate 12.5 crore people) but I can say that the imports will accelerate after June 15. In September, we will have quite a sizable number of Sputnik V doses available in the country,” GV Prasad, co-chairman and managing director, Dr Reddy's Laboratories told DH.

The Hyderabad-based pharma major inked an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to distribute 25 crore imported doses in India. In addition, the RDIF signed pacts with six firms - Hetero, Virchow, Panacea, Gland, Stellis, and Shilpa – for local production of Sputnik V, half of which are expected to be sold in the Indian market.

The Centre hopes the availability of more than 15 crore doses of Sputnik V, which together with Covishield (75 crore) and Covaxin (55 crore) would constitute the bulk of the two billion doses that the government hopes to have by December 2021.

According to the Health Ministry, over 34 per cent of the population above 45 years has received at least the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Also more than 42 per cent of people belonging to the 60 plus age group got at least one shot. But considering that everyone will need two doses of the vaccine and the target population is now 95 crore, it's a long way to go.

“Currently available vaccines protect against severe disease so those at risk are to be protected. The current immunisation delivery system appears to disregard the risk-based protection approach,” observed Oommen John, a senior researcher at the George Institute for Global Health, Delhi.

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Published 26 May 2021, 17:52 IST

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