India is vaccinating on an average 50 lakh individuals daily since June 21, equivalent to inoculating the entire population of Norway every day, the Centre said on Friday and asserted that the process is like a marathon and not a 100-metre race. Addressing a press briefing, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, health ministry, said till date, 34 crore people–equivalent to the entire population of the US–have been vaccinated with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine since the nationwide inoculation drive began on January 16.
“We are in a marathon and not a 100-metre sprint,” Agarwal said responding to a question on why the rate of vaccination had come down after India administered over 86 lakh doses on June 21. The government had on May 13 shared a roadmap of vaccine manufacturing in the country from August to December.
It said there should be 75 crore doses of Covishield and 55 crore jabs of Covaxin. These are two main vaccine suppliers to the government. Besides 30 crore vaccines by Biological E, 5 crore by Zydus Cadila, 20 crore by Novavax to be manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), 10 crore nasal vaccines of Bharat Biotech, 6 crore vaccines of Gennova and 15.6 crore Sputnik V vaccines would be available between August to December, it had said.
On the availability of Covid vaccines between August to December, NITI Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said this should be viewed in a context. “When we said that we were looking at 216 crore doses, the companies and manufacturers shared the optimistic estimates. We banked on their reputation to make that announcement. We thought it was apt to share it with the country because there was a feeling at that time whether vaccines were available or not, he said.
The visibility of two manufacturers is 90 crore and it looks achievable. They can produce more, he said, alluding to the Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin). Talking about Biological E’s vaccine, Paul noted, We have so much faith that we gave advance orders. In the case of Zydus vaccine, they said they plan to manufacture 50 million doses from August-December.
“Why will India (government) not think that they are getting 1 crore doses every month (from Zydus)? We share the numbers with the same honesty, he said. The senior official also said that the dynamic situation should be seen in a context.
“When we present a dynamic situation before you in a context…. the first number is aspirational. We are not even counting two vaccines which are coming in the later part in October or November. The estimate is at its own place. Please see these two things in context, he said. Paul expressed confidence that the scene will become more liberal in coming days.
Even if we depend on our main suppliers, we think the situation is satisfactory, he asserted. Asked about the Moderna vaccine which has been given an Emergency Use Authorisation, Paul said discussion on this is on to see in what form will the country get the vaccine.
In the case of Johnson and Johnson (J&J), he said the government is in touch with the US pharma giant. We have interactions with them to understand their expectations, contractual arrangements and specific terms. J&J is also producing vaccines in other countries and according to the plan, Biological E is also manufacturing it. We hope that this single dose vaccine is available in India, Paul said.
The new revised guidelines of COVID-19 vaccination came into effect from June 21 according to which the Centre will now procure 75 per cent of the vaccines being produced by the manufacturers in the country. In order to incentivise production by vaccine manufacturers and encourage new vaccines, domestic vaccine manufacturers are given the option to also provide vaccines directly to private hospitals. This would be restricted to 25 per cent of their monthly production, the new guidelines stated.