Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal (right), deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. (HT file)
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal (right), deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. (HT file)

Moderna, Pfizer said they’ll deal only with Centre, not states: Delhi govt

This comes at a time when government vaccination centres in Delhi have completely shut for those below 45 years due to non-availability of doses and the Delhi government is trying to place orders with Indian and foreign manufacturers to replenish their stocks and reopen all centres
PUBLISHED ON MAY 24, 2021 03:15 PM IST

US pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna have informed the Delhi government that “they will deal with the Central government” only and not sell Covid-19 vaccines individually to any state, said chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday. This comes at a time when government vaccination centres in Delhi have been closed for those below 45 years due to non-availability of doses and the government is trying to place orders with Indian and foreign manufacturers to replenish their stocks and reopen all centres.

“We have spoken to Pfizer and Moderna for vaccines, and both the manufacturers have refused to sell directly to us. They have said they will deal with the Central government. We appeal to the Centre to import vaccines and distribute to the states,” Kejriwal told reporters on Monday. His statement also comes a day after Punjab said Moderna has refused to sell vaccines directly to the state.

Kejriwal added: “We need vaccines. The Centre talked to Moderna, and Pfizer, and completed negotiations within 2-3 days. Why can’t it talk again to [vaccine] companies and complete negotiations in 3-4 days? Why is it not being done urgently? Bharat Biotech, which is manufacturing Covaxin, is willing to share its formula with everyone. A national newspaper reported that 16 companies here can produce Covaxin. Out of them, Bharat Biotech has struck a deal with only two companies. The Centre should order, not request, these 16 companies to start production within the next few days.”

He added, “According to that report, if the 16 companies start production, they can produce 250 million vaccines every month. Then why are we not making these? Take the example of UK and USA. There are less than 18,000 cases in the USA. That shows that vaccine is the only solution to this [crisis]. Covaxin [stock in Delhi] is over but Covishield is left for a few days.”

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In the afternoon, in a press briefing, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the Delhi government has reached out to Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson&Johnson for vaccines, of which the former two have refused.

“We asked the Centre for vaccines for the younger people, to which it replied that Delhi will only get 400,000 and the rest must be procured through a global tender. So, we reached out to foreign manufacturers and they have said they will only give to the Centre. The Central government has made vaccines a joke in India,” Sisodia said.

“The Centre is solely responsible for vaccine shortage in the country. It failed to manage and sustain its vaccination drive. It was the Centre’s responsibility to make vaccines available to the entire country, but it chose to sell doses to others first merely for image management across the globe,” he said.

The deputy chief minister urged the Central government to expedite approvals to foreign vaccines, and procure, and distribute them among states. He said foreign-made vaccines which the states have been asked to procure through global tenders have not even been given full approvals by the Central government till now.

“Russia gave approval to its Sputnik vaccine in August last year and it started mass vaccination in December. In 2020, India had refused to give approval to Sputnik and did so only last month. We are only playing approval-approval here, whereas 68 countries bought Sputnik vaccines way before and started using them. Britain gave approval to US-made Pfizer in December. We were sleeping back then and are still sleeping. At least 85 countries approved Pfizer vaccine and started procuring and vaccinating, but in India, we have not yet given approval,” he said.

“Moderna has been approved by 46 counties but India has not given its approval. At least 41 countries have approved the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, we have not yet given approval to sell it. What is this joke? The vaccines which the Centre has asked us to buy from outside have not even been approved in the country yet,” he said.

Watch | ‘Pfizer & Moderna refused to sell Covid jabs to Delhi because..’: Kejriwal

Sisodia, who is also Delhi’s nodal minister for Covid-19, said all other countries closely monitored vaccine development across the globe and placed orders well in advance. “By November, 2020, nearly seven months ago, the USA and the European Union had procured 700 million vaccine doses. The US had started procuring vaccines right from their trial stages and today, it has enough doses for each of its citizens. Britain started its vaccination programme in January this year, and in that month itself, it had enough vaccines to cover 75% of its population,” he said.

“In November 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the vaccine manufacturing plant of Serum Institute of India. The Indian government pumped in money to increase production only last month whereas the US started investing in production of vaccines in March, 2020,” Sisodia said.

The minister said he hopes the Centre expedites procurement of vaccines to avoid a situation where even those who have got their first dose are made to take the vaccines all over again due to excessive delay in getting the second jabs.

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