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No response to Maharashtra’s bid to buy vaccines

Maharashtra’s efforts to tide over the Covid-19 vaccine shortage by buying directly from global manufacturers have not got any response, as the deadline for global bids ends on Tuesday
By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 25, 2021 01:01 AM IST

Maharashtra’s efforts to tide over the Covid-19 vaccine shortage by buying directly from global manufacturers have not got any response, as the deadline for global bids ends on Tuesday.

The state is likely to extend the duration for manufacturers and suppliers to submit bids for the second time. The current deadline ends on May 25. The Mumbai civic body has also floated the tenders for vaccines and its deadline too ends on Tuesday. It is yet to announce its decision, although it had received three offers for supplying Russia made Sputnik V vaccine.

The state floated an express of interest (EOI) on May 17 to procure 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Food and Drug Administration, and are being manufactured in other countries. The deadline ended on May 20 and was extended to May 25, as there was no response. “We have not got any response to the EOI floated to procure Covid vaccines,” Rajesh Tope, state health minister, told HT.

This comes at a time when the state has suspended its drive for those below 45 years due to non-availability of doses since May 12. It was trying to place orders with Indian and foreign manufacturers to replenish their stocks and reopen all centres.

By floating global tenders, the state is aiming at importing the doses of the vaccines manufactured by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Zydus Cadila, Sputnik among others. “We have no option but to extend it further as we need vaccines to immunize those in the 18-45 age group as decided by the Centre. The decision over giving extension will be taken on Tuesday,” Tope said.

In case of Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has received three proposals till now for supplying Russian Sputnik vaccine. The BMC had last week extended the last date to May 25 for receiving a global expression of interest. The BMC had also sought clarification from the three companies that had submitted their proposals. The clarification was about documents relating to them being the official supplier of the Sputnik vaccine. The three proposals had quoted around 1,500 for both doses. Until Monday, the BMC had not extended the tender dates. The civic body too is expected to announce its decision on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Tope again urged the Centre to form a policy for vaccine import at national level. “The state has already urged the Centre to frame a national vaccine import policy to avoid unhealthy competition among states to procure vaccines,” he added.

The demand was made in the backdrop of US pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna making it clear that they will deal only with the central government and not sell Covid-19 vaccines individually to any state. On Monday, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said they have spoken to Pfizer and Moderna for procuring vaccines and both the manufacturers have refused to sell it directly.

On Sunday, the Punjab government said that the Moderna Inc. declined their request to procure vaccines by saying that it only deals with the Central government.

“The bid was open for all the players and was not sent to specific manufacturers,” the health minister said, in response to a question on any communication received by the state from manufacturing firms such as Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over vaccine supply.

The Central government provides free doses for those above 45 years but for the beneficiaries below 45 years of age, the stock has to be procured by the state government.

The Indian manufacturers have not given any confirmed supply schedule to the state, except assurance of improving supplies from June.

“We are hoping their production capacity will start increasing from June. As soon as the supplies of vaccine stock become regular, we will start the vaccination drive around-the-clock. We will hold the drive for 24 hours a day. I want to immunise the entire population at the earliest and have planned things accordingly,” the chief minister said on Sunday.

The state is also not getting enough supply from the Centre that has slowed down its drive for those above 45 years of age.

On Monday, it vaccinated 248,251 beneficiaries. Between May 15 and 21, 844,135 people were inoculated, against 1,834,369 in the preceding week of May 8-14 and 1,433,165 from May 1-7. In the last week of April, 2,080,998 doses were given to the beneficiaries, according to the statistics available on Co-Win portal.

Inputs from Mehul Thakkar

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