The government denied reports today that it has not placed any fresh orders for Covid vaccines since March. Media reports that suggest the last order for 100 million doses of the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and 20 million Covaxin doses from Bharat Biotech was placed in March are “completely incorrect and not based on facts”, said the centre.
The government said it had released a 100 per cent advance of Rs 1732.50 crore to Serum on April 28 for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine to be used in May, June and July. “As on date, against the last order of 10 crore doses for supplies of Covishield vaccine, 8.744 crore doses have been delivered till May 3,” said the government.
The government said it also paid a similar advance of Rs. 787.50 crore the same day to Bharat Biotech for five crore Covaxin doses in May, June and July and that two crore doses had been delivered till today.
Till Sunday, the government has provided more 16.54 crore vaccine doses to states and Union Territories free of cost, said the statement. More than 78 lakh doses were available with them and more than 56 lakh more doses would come in the next three days.
Soon after the rejoinder, Serum put out a tweet saying: “We endorse this statement and the authenticity of the information. We have been working closely with the Government of India for the past year and thank it for its support. We remain committed to ramping up our vaccine production to save every life we can.”
Bloomberg is among those who have reported, quoting unnamed persons, that the government hasn’t placed an order larger than 110 million doses from Serum since sales started in December, which is enough for just four per cent of its population of 1.4 billion people.
The reports emerge as many states struggle with a shortage of vaccine stocks and thousands have been waiting for appointments to get Covid shots after vaccinations were opened to all above 18 on Saturday (May 1).
Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla was quoted by The Financial Express as saying the vaccine shortage would continue through July and the production of the vaccines would likely increase from 60-70 million doses to 100 million by then. Mr Poonawalla had earlier told The Financial Times that his company has been maligned by politicians and critics over shortages in vaccines. He said that the government, not the Serum Institute, was responsible for policy decisions.
In a clarification today, he said Serum had supplied over 15 crore doses to the government and has received an advance for the next lot of 11 crore doses, which will be delivered in the next few months.