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Amid supply crunch, Maharashtra, Rajasthan look to import Covid-19 vaccines

Maharashtra is in talks with RDIF, that helped finance Sputnik V, to purchase vaccine doses.
By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Jaipur/mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 10, 2021 05:31 AM IST
The Maharashtra government, too, has started talks with foreign vaccine manufacturers to boost the speed of the inoculation drive in the 18-44 category. In picture - A vial of Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine.(Reuters)

As supplies of Covid-19 vaccines in India face constraints after vaccination was opened to all above 18, the governments of Maharashtra and Rajasthan are planning to import vaccines to meet the gap between the rising demand and supply of domestic vaccines. The development comes as the case tally in India surged to 22,662,092, with 366,528 new cases being reported on Sunday.

Addressing a meeting to review the Covid-19 situation in the state, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot stressed on the need to accelerate the pace of the vaccination drive to arrest the spread of the virus and reduce the fatality rate. “The state will consider importing Covid-19 vaccine to ensure that the residents of Rajasthan are vaccinated at the earliest,” he said at the meeting held on Saturday.

Rajasthan recorded 17,921 Covid-19 cases and 159 deaths on Sunday that pushed the infection tally to 756,707 and toll to 5,665, according to the HT dashboard.

Over 13.9 million people, including around 275,000 between 18 and 44 years, have received the first and second dose of the vaccines in Rajasthan so far. The state, which has a population of around 7.50 crore, requires additional 6.50 crore vaccines (for the first dose).

Also read | 1.8mn in 18-44 yrs age group have received first jab, says govt data

The Maharashtra government, too, has started talks with foreign vaccine manufacturers to boost the speed of the inoculation drive in the 18-44 category. However, clearances from the Centre continue to remain a hurdle for the government to procure stock from outside the country, said officials.

On Sunday, state health minister Rajesh Tope said:. “Currently our vaccination drive is going on at a slow pace because vaccines are not being made available. Chief minister has clearly said that Maharashtra has the potential to purchase 120 million doses in one go, but availability is the main issue. The Centre must intervene in this matter and make vaccine doses available for Maharashtra. The vaccination of 18-44 category is crucial as the age group steps out of their homes. If the government gives permission, we can procure Sputnik or other foreign vaccines for the citizens of our state. There are several approvals needed from Centre,” Tope said.

Tope earlier revealed that the state government is currently in talks with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund that helped finance vaccine Sputnik V, to purchase doses. “We are trying to get the stock available with them,” Tope said on May 7.

Maharashtra recorded 572 Covid-19 fatalities and 48,401 fresh cases on Sunday that pushed the death toll to 75,849 and the infection tally to 5,101,737, according to the HT dashboard. Over 1.80 crore people have received the first and second dose of the vaccine in Maharashtra so far. The state, which has a population over 13 crore, requires additional 11 crore vaccines.

The inoculation drive in India began on January 16, and Covishield and Covaxin are the two shots currently being used. The former is developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca and is being manufactured in India by Serum Institute of India, while the latter is an indigenous shot, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Limited in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research. Last month, the Drug Controller General of India approved the use of the Sputnik V vaccine, paving the way for India to roll out its third phase of vaccination drive.

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