Maharashtra govt to float tendre to procure Covid vaccine, Remdesivir from international market: Ajit Pawar
Maharashtra has formed a five-member committee which has been tasked to draft a tender to purchase vaccines from global vaccine makers, a week after the Centre announced that all adults will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine and doses can be sold via the market from May 1.
The committee, which will be headed by chief secretary Sitaram Kunte, will facilitate the process of purchasing vaccines as well as drugs like remedesivir, an anti-viral drug that is part of the Covid-19 treatment protocol, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said on Saturday.
“The state cabinet has empowered a committee to take all the decisions about purchase of both remdesivir drug and the Covid vaccine,” Pawar said following a review of Covid situation in Pune on Saturday.
Additional chief secretary of finance department Manoj Saunik, principal secretary of public health Dr Pradeep Vyas, secretary of medical education department Saurabh Vijay and principal secretary of industries department Baldev Singh will be part of the committee.
The state government is expected to float the global bid by early next week by taking state cabinet’s nod for the expenditure.
“The base rate, quantity of vaccines and the Remdesivir desired, expected turn around period will be finalised soon. The bidding will be for all vaccines currently available in international market as well as two available in India. The imported stock of the vaccines is however unlikely to be available before the launch on May 1,” said an official from the public health department.
On April 20, following a state cabinet meeting it was decided that Maharashtra will use its development funds to procure vaccines, including those that need to be imported as “ready to use”.
“We currently have two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, but if the need arises, we have also decided to import stock of other vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Sputnik from other countries. There will be no dearth of the money for the vaccine, as we have decided to use the development funds to procure vaccine stock,” state health minister Rajesh Tope had said after the meeting.
On Wednesday, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had held an online meeting with Serum Institute of India’s Adar Poonawalla on Wednesday, where he was told that the company’s production of Covishield has been booked till May 24, Tope said.
In light of that, the state will start negotiations with manufacturers of imported vaccines as it will not be able to purchase stock from Serum Institute of India, which makes Covidshield, till third week of May, and Bharat Biotech, which makes Covaxin, as it has not released its prices, Tope added.
“A plan is being worked out… since foreign import is now allowed and there is Bharat Biotech, we will get in touch with them. The vaccination drive for [age] 18 to 44 will start on May 1, but the stock is expected to be limited. In that age group, there are roughly 55 or 57.5 million people. So, we will require about 120 million doses, including the wastage, over a span of four to five months, depending on how soon we get the stock,” Kunte had said last week.
According to a statement issued by the Press Information Bureau on April 19, adults under the age of 45 would be able to receive vaccines once private sales begin or if state governments procure stocks for distribution to these age groups.
In the third phase of the vaccination strategy, the government will make pricing, procurement, eligibility, and administration open and flexible. Vaccine makers will be able to sell half of what they produce at a price of their choosing to the open market and to state governments. The remainder will need to be supplied to Centre for the state-sponsored component of the vaccination programme, which remains limited to the 45-and-over age group only.
If the vaccines have been imported as ready-to-use, the government will allow all of the stocks to be sold on the open market or to the states. The pricing for any doses sold in the open market will need to be “transparent”, although the government’s release did not indicate a cap.
On April 21, SII announced the price of its Covishield vaccine in the open market. While one dose of this two-dose vaccine will cost ₹600 for private facilities, it will cost ₹400 for the state governments. It also provided a price comparison with other vaccines available in the open market, where the “Russian vaccine” and “Chinese vaccine” costs ₹750, and the “American vaccine” costs ₹1500. The Union health ministry on Saturday issued a clarification saying that the Centre will procure both the vaccines at ₹150 only. And those doses will be provided free to the states.
US pharma major Pfizer is in talks with the Centre to deploy its jab for India’s Covid-19 immunisation programme and said that it had offered a not-for-profit price for its vaccine to the government.
Pawar said on Saturday that Maharashtra wanted to begin vaccination for all adults from May 1 which is also Maharashtra Day and Labour Day.
“In addition to Serum Institute of India’s Covishield vaccine, the other approved vaccines including US made Pfizer or Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and other vaccines will be included in the tender. Also for remdesivir which is currently under acute shortage will also be procured through a global tender,” Pawar said.
Sputnik V made by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, was approved formally on April 13 and its initial doses are expected to be imported. On Monday, pharma giant Johnson & Johnson applied to India’s drug regulator seeking permission to conduct Phase-3 clinical trial of its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine in India as well as for an import license.
Highlighting the increasing demand of liquid oxygen Pawar said that Maharashtra’s quota from Jamnagar plant has been reduced to 125 Metric Tonnes (MT) from 250 (MT) by the Centre. “On Saturday I got to know that this quota has been reduced. I request not to reduce our quota from that plant. Empty oxygen tankers are being airlifted to fast track the oxygen supply. They can come back by road or on train,” Pawar said.
“Some plants which were shut down in the past are being reactivated. Sugar factories have been asked if liquid oxygen can be generated from there. For Pune, 30 oxygen plants are proposed and will be installed,” Pawar said.