Nearly 120 million vaccine doses will be available for the national Covid vaccination programme in June, the Union ministry of health and family welfare announced on Sunday even as both companies supplying the jabs are looking at ramping up their production capacity to 110-120 million doses from the existing 75-80 million.
At least 60 million (60,960,000) doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be supplied to the states and Union territories for vaccination of the priority groups of health care workers (HCWs), frontline workers (FLWs), and people aged 45 years and above as free supply from the central government channel. Apart from that, close to 59 million (58,610,000) vaccine doses will be available for direct procurement by the states and private hospitals, reports the Hindustan Times.
“In June 2021, close to 120 million (119,570,000) doses will be available for the national Covid-19 vaccination programme… Vaccination is an integral pillar of the comprehensive strategy of the government of India for containment and management of the pandemic, along with test, track, treat and Covid-appropriate behaviour. As part of the nationwide vaccination drive, the government of India has been supporting the states and UTs by providing them Covid-19 vaccines free of cost,” the health ministry said in a statement.
The ministry, however, did not share a state-wise break-up of the number of vaccine doses allotted for the month of June. According to reports, Serum Institute of India’s chief executive officer, Adar Poonawalla, informed Union home minister Amit Shah that the company would be ramping up vaccine production in June by around 90-100 million doses.
SII locally produces the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine under the brand name Covishield.
On April 16, the ministry of science and technology in a statement also announced that it would help double the production capacity of India’s first make-in-India Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, by May-June, 2021, from the existing 10 million doses per month. Bharat Biotech co-developed Covaxin with the Indian Council of Medical Research.
The allocation of supplies through the government of India channel to the states and Union territories is decided based on the consumption pattern, population, and vaccine wastage. The supply details are shared in advance for 15/30 days, to ensure better planning and delivery of vaccines.
“The supplies are being fast ramped up by the manufactures, so more vaccine doses will be available in weeks to come. The doses need to be effectively distributed also at the state level keeping the current supply scenario in mind. The priority has to be covering the country’s high-risk population -- health care, and frontline workers, and those above 45 years of age,” said a senior central government official, requesting anonymity.
From May 1 this year, 50% of the available doses are being earmarked for the states as free of cost supply from the government of India channel, while the remaining 50% is available for direct procurement from manufacturers by the states and private hospitals under the Centre’s “Liberalized Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy” .
“Visibility for availability of vaccines for the entire month of June 2021 has been provided well in advance to States/UTs by Union Government as communicated to States and UTs vide letters of Union Health Ministry dated 17th May 2021, 27th May 2021 and 29th May 2021… States have been requested to direct the concerned officials to ensure rational and judicious utilization of allocated doses and minimize the vaccine wastage,” the health ministry statement said.
The delivery schedule for the current lot of supplies will also be shared with the states in advance. In May, a total of 79 million (79,405,200) doses were available for the national Covid vaccination programme, of which 40 million (40,349,830) doses were made available by the Centre to the states free of cost. In addition, 39 million (39,055,370) doses were also available for direct procurement by the states as well as private hospitals.
Experts say vaccination needs to be scaled up.
“All vaccines are effective in reducing severity of the disease, and death; therefore, it is important to vaccinate people as fast as possible, especially the country’s vulnerable population,” said Dr GC Khilnani, former head of the pulmonology and sleep medicine department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.