Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia. (File photo)
Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia. (File photo)

Delhi deputy CM Sisodia hits out at Centre over vaccine supply cap

  • According to a formula shared by the Centre with the Supreme Court over the weekend, state governments will altogether be given 20 million doses to inoculate their 18-44 age group population from the roughly 85 million vaccines doses expected to be produced this month.
By Sweta Goswami, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 13, 2021 04:54 AM IST

The Capital has shut over 100 vaccination centres meant for people in the 18-44 age group for lack of Covaxin doses, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said on Wednesday, while hitting out at the Union government for capping the number of doses that states can acquire even when they are procuring shots directly.

The deputy CM cited a letter by Bharat Biotech’s chairman and managing director Krishna Ella, who wrote back to Delhi’s principal secretary (health) expressing the company’s inability to send more doses since the supplies were capped by the Union government.

“It is the Centre, which introduced the policy of letting every state government procure doses directly from the manufacturers. Then why is the central government controlling even the stocks that state governments are directly procuring from the manufacturers? From exporting vaccines to controlling supplies to states, the Centre is regulating everything,” Sisodia, the nodal minister for Covid-19, said at the press conference.

“Delhi sought 13.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to inoculate every adult in the city. Of this, we sought 6.7 million doses each of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech and Covishield from Serum Institute of India. Yesterday (Tuesday), the Covaxin manufacturer sent us a letter stating clearly that it will not be able to send vaccine doses to us. As of date, we have zero stock of Covaxin and only those centres having Covishield doses are open for vaccination,” he added.

In his letter to the Delhi government, Ella said there has been an unprecedented demand for vaccines, and in spite of increasing production every month, they are unable to meet the requirements.

“Further, we are making dispatches as per the directives of the concerned government officials. We, therefore, sincerely regret that we cannot make any additional supplies as required by you,” said the letter, a copy of which has HT seen, dated May 11.

Representatives of the Union government and Bharat Biotech declined to comment on the matter after Sisodia’s press conference.

According to a formula shared by the Centre with the Supreme Court over the weekend, state governments will altogether be given 20 million doses to inoculate their 18-44 age group population from the roughly 85 million vaccines doses expected to be produced this month.

The Union government has said it has fixed quotas even for doses that states need to directly procure from vaccine makers in the interest of equitable distribution, and the quotas have been fixed based on the number of people in the 18-44 age group in each state.

Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta said the Kejriwal government did not ask for fresh stocks until May 7. “No vaccine was ordered by the Delhi government, and it only wrote a letter of interest seeking a rate quotation from the manufacturer, that too as late as May 7, to which the company immediately replied. Firstly, despite having ample time, the Kejriwal government did not reserve oxygen cylinders. Now again, they missed the opportunity to order and procure vaccine on time and are therefore, engaging in blame game,” Gupta said.

HT has asked the Delhi government for a copy of the letter it sent to the company on May 7. A reply from the government is awaited.

Sisodia said Bharat Biotech’s letter clearly indicates that the central government is deciding which state should get how much stock of vaccines and said that if India had not exported 65 million doses of vaccines, it could have vaccinated the entire population of Mumbai and Delhi together.

The deputy CM asked the central government to temporarily suspend all exports of Covid-19 vaccines, rope in more pharmaceutical companies to scale up production, and float a global tender for vaccine procurement and give it to states to inoculate every person in three months.

At least 10 states, including Delhi, have said they will float global tenders for procurement -- an approach Sisodia said will only lead states to compete against each other.

“The Centre should understand the gravity of the pandemic in the country and play the role of the national government. Instead of asking states to fight for vaccines in the international market, the Centre should buy these globally and give them to the states after which it should direct every state government to complete vaccination in three months,” he said.

The Delhi government said it received 150,000 doses of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech to administer to those between 18-44 and, since the drive began for this age group on May 1, the doses have been completely used up.

“So far, we received around 817,690 vaccine doses – 150,000 Covaxin and 667,690 Covishield – for the 18-44 age group. Of the total doses received, 382,620 doses have been used. Currently, we have around 435,070 doses in stock and all of them are Covishield. Going by the current rate of beneficiary turnout, the Covishield stock should last nine more days,” said the ruling Aam Aadmi Party’s lawmaker Atishi in the government’s live-streamed bulletin on vaccination on Wednesday.

These numbers are for the 18-44 years group. For the 45 and above age group, the administration has 4 days of Covaxin stock and 3 days of Covishield, but more may be expected from the Union government.

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