30% fewer vaccines supplied in first 5 months of 2021

SII, Bharat Biotech supplied 30% fewer vaccines in first 5 months of 2021: Data

The MoHFW has scaled down its expectation by 81 crore on the number of doses it would receive between August and December

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo

The two Indian manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines appear to have supplied at least 30% fewer doses than their known production capacities in the first five months of this year, suggests an analysis of the data shared by the Union Health Ministry in an affidavit presented before the Supreme Court.

The ministry has also scaled down its expectation by 81 crore on the number of doses it would receive from the vaccine manufacturers between August and December.

From the earlier claim of receiving 216 crore doses by December to vaccinate the entire target population of 95 crore Indians with two doses, the government now hopes to receive 135 crore doses by December, giving up on three research-scale vaccines and lowering the expectations from Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.

Read | Karnataka to get nearly 60 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses in July

Between January and May, the two manufacturers supplied 22.07 crore doses to the Centre while another 4.19 crore was sent to the states and private hospitals directly following the liberalised vaccine procurement policy of the central government. Taken together more than 26 crore doses came from them.

This is significantly less than the declared production capacities of the two firms. In an affidavit before the Kerala High Court last month, the ministry said SII had ramped up its production from five crore doses per month to 6.5 crore doses per month and further ramp-up is expected by July 2021.

Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, which produces the home grown Covaxin, increased production from 90 lakh per month to two crore doses per month and further increase up to 5.5 crore doses per month was expected by July 2021.

So assuming a production of 6.5 crore doses per month from SII and 90 lakh from Bharat (since the company said it took 120 days to bring one batch to the market), the total production from the two companies should have been around 37 crore between January and May – nearly 11 crore more than what they had supplied.

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The supply side shortage may turn out even bigger if one takes into account the stockpile that the two companies had produced before receiving the central government order.

SII claimed to have a stockpile of 5 crore doses before receiving the regulatory approval whereas Bharat Biotech had announced it had one crore doses readily available in January, 2021 and another one crore would be available in February. Both, according to the company, were "risk manufacturing" as there were no government orders.

On the projected availability of vaccines between August and December, the Centre says it now expects 50 crore Covishield doses from SII (instead of 75 crore as projected earlier) and 40 crore from Bharat Biotech (as against the previous projection of 40 crore).

While there is no scaling down on the anticipated supply from BiologiclaE and ZydusCadila, the ministry affidavit is now silent on 20 crore doses of Novavax, 6 crore doses of mRNA vaccine from Genova and 10 crore doses of the nasal vaccine from Bharat Biotech on which it pinned hopes a month back. The expected supply of Sputnik has also been lowered to 10 crore from the previous figure of 15.6 crore.

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