Regulate supply of Covid-19 vaccine shots: Delhi CM Kejriwal writes to health minister Harsh Vardhan
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday wrote to Union health minister Harsh Vardhan and asked that the Centre regulate the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to the states while ensuring that they receive enough doses to inoculate all their residents, even as he urged that the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech — the two firms manufacturing vaccines in India — be directed to increase supplies to Delhi between May and July.
“The central government should make available to the states the requisite number of vaccines to enable vaccination of all its citizens. The central government should actively monitor and supervise the manufacture of vaccines by private parties so that supplies in adequate quantity are made to all state governments and this crucial aspect is not left to the discretion of the private manufacturers,” read Kejriwal’s letter, a copy of which HT has seen.
The letter comes a day after Kejriwal, in a digital press briefing, said Delhi only had enough Covid-19 vaccine stocks to last five to six days, and urged the Centre and manufacturers to expedite supplies, so that “every adult in the national capital can be inoculated within three months.”
Spokespersons of the Union health ministry did not respond to requests for a comment.
In his letter, Kejriwal also said the Delhi government has approached Dr Reddy’s Labs for the Russian-made Sputnik V, the third vaccine approved for use in India.
Dr Reddy’s Labs, which is conducting clinical trials in India on behalf of the makers of Sputnik V, received the national regulator’s emergency use approval for the jab last month. The company will import the vaccine for use in India.
In his letter, Kejriwal also appealed that vaccines be priced uniformly, saying that the current model incentivises private manufacturers to “prioritise supplies” to private hospitals over state governments. He also flagged glitches in the CoWIN portal, leading to problems booking slots and urged the Centre to allow states to develop their own registration systems.
Covishield, manufactured by SII, and Covaxin, produced by Bharat Biotech, are available to the Centre at ₹150 a dose. However, Covishield is sold to states for ₹300 a dose, while Covaxin is sold at ₹600.
Spokespersons of neither SII nor Bharat Biotech responded to requests seeking comments.
Also read | Sisodia hits out at Centre for jab exports
To private hospitals, Covishield is available at ₹600 per dose, and Covaxin for ₹1,200.
On May 2, the Supreme Court asked the central government about differential Covid-19 vaccine pricing. The current vaccination policy would “result in a detriment to the right to public health,” said the apex court, and maintained that the policy be “revisited”. The top court asked the Union government to consider procuring vaccines for all the states at the same price, which will then be liable to lift the allocated quantities, and respond by May 10.
The Centre in an affidavit on Sunday night turned down the Supreme Court’s suggestion.
Kejriwal’s letter to Vardhan further said: “We are procuring the required number of vaccines and providing them free of cost at the government centres. We have already placed supply orders with Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute (SII) and have approached Reddy’s labs for Sputnik vaccines.”
The first consignment carrying 150,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine landed in Hyderabad, Dr Reddy’s labs announced on May 1.
“Delhi has a population of around 20 million, out of which 15 million are aged above 18 years (eligible for vaccines). Vaccinating all of them would need 30 million doses. We have received roughly five million doses so far. Therefore, we need about 25 million additional doses. But we are not able to receive supplies as per our requirement and even get firm delivery schedules. As the third wave is also anticipated soon, we want to complete vaccination of all people living in Delhi within three months,” the CM’s letter to Vardhan said.
Till May 8, Delhi administered around 3.90 million doses of vaccines to people aged over 45 years and around 299,000 doses to people aged between 18-44 years, for whom the drive opened on May 1, the letter said.
The letter also read, “To complete it (vaccination of all adults) in three months, we would need 2.3 million doses per month from government of India channel during the three months of May to July 2021 (for the 45+ beneficiaries). Delhi has around 9.2 million people in 18-45 age group I urge you to direct Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech to increase their monthly supplies to Delhi to 6 million doses per month during May to July 2021.”
“Convergence of sincere efforts of the government of India, states and private sector is essential to ensure faster vaccination. But such convergence is getting constrained by the continued glitches in the CoWin app. These glitches are leading to most people spending valuable time for getting registered or for booking vaccine appointments. Also, a large number of people are not tech savvy to be able to register themselves. As we plan to expand vaccination for the 18-45 age group, such glitches should not be allowed to deprive people of vaccination. Hence, I request you to allow states to develop their separate apps or develop mechanisms other than apps to manage vaccination in their sites,” said the letter.