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If the Indian government has paid the two vaccine companies (Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech) for additional vaccine doses, then why is the overall stock of vaccines reduced and also the rate of vaccinations declining? The ambitious vaccination drive that India embarked upon on 16 January this year gathered steam in early April touching around 4 million vaccinations a day. But despite India opening up the age limit and making even those above 18 years eligible for the jab, the rate of vaccination has slipped to 2.3 million doses a day. To put this number in context, the daily vaccine production by Serum Institute of India is 2.4 million doses and this is not including the production by Bharat Biotech.
What is adding a layer of ambiguity is the availability of the total vaccine stocks. There is still no clarity on the actual vaccine stocks still available with the central government as also its plans on the timeframe by when additional stocks are to be procured and distributed.
It is not as if the companies are not having inventory. Serum for instance, Financial Express Online, learns, is carrying an inventory of around 40 to 50 million doses in different stages of quality control. Typically, every day 2.4 million doses are produced by the company and these take 28 days to complete quality control tests and be released by the National Control laboratory.
But then, the last statement from the government on the vaccine stocks does not seem to project a very healthy picture of the current stocks available. On Thursday, 6 May, the Indian government announced that since the start of the vaccination drive, the central government has provided over 171 million doses in all to the states and Union territories free of cost. As of 6 May, it says that over 8.9 million (89 lakh) doses are still available with the states/UTs. Furthermore, it says over 2.8 million (28 lakh) vaccine doses would be made available in addition to the states/UTs within the next three days. That is 11.7 million doses for the states. This, going at the current rate of vaccination, is a stock that can get consumed in a matter of days.
The questions that therefore come up is why is the government not sharing the road map on the vaccine availability following its major procurement plans? How this is to be dispensed to the states and by when? And what is the amount of inventory it is carrying at the moment?
After all, on 3 May, the central government denying media reports that no orders had still been made to procure more vaccine doses, “clarified that 100 per cent advance of Rs. 1,732.50 crore was released to Serum Institute of India (SII) on 28 April for 110 million (11 crore) doses of Covishield vaccine during May, June and July and that as against the previous order of 100 million (10 crore) doses for supplies of Covishield vaccine, 87 million (8.74 crore) doses had been delivered till 3 May. According to sources in Serum, the balance is to be supplied in the coming week. In addition, the government had also announced that “100 per cent advance of Rs. 787.50 crore was also released on 28 April 28 to Bharat Biotech India Ltd (BBIL) for 50 million (5 crore) Covaxin doses during May, June and July and that as on 3 May, as against the previous order of 20 million (2 crore) doses, around 8.8 million (88 lakh) doses of Covaxin had been supplied.