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COVID vaccines cannot be made available immediately, process takes time

Not all Covid-19 vaccines produced in India are immediately available for distribution, Lav Agarwal said on Monday. Joint Secretary in the Union Health Ministry, Agarwal was responding to a question about the gap between vaccine production and availability in India.

Addressing the gap in production and supply, Agarwal said, “We need to understand this in two ways. The first is about the production and then the availability of vaccines in the field. If 6.5 crore [doses] of Covishield vaccines are being produced and an average of 1.5 crore of Covaxin are being produced this month, if the product is 8 crore vaccines [doses] in total, it is not immediately available.”

“There are processes involved in ensuring its availability. Just after production, stability and sterility studies are done, that takes about one week. Then the vaccine is released in batches. These batches are then sent to the Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) based in Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh for batch testing. After completion of these tests, they are sent across the supply chain of India,” said Lav Agarwal.

‘States have to ensure last mile connectivity’
He went on to say that it takes at least 8-10 days for the vaccines to reach their destination. The onus is on states to ensure better availability of vaccines to the last mile centre.

“States have to ensure that the logistics management and inventory management should be strong. For example, when we are giving free vaccines to states from the central government, we also inform states on a daily basis on doses allocated for each state day-on-day,” Lav Agarwal said.

He added, “This is done so that states can micro-plan availability, vaccine centres, slots, etc. Hence, throughout the vaccination supply chain, some are in the pipeline and some are made available in weeks to come. But states must also ensure their availability on the field through their logistics and supply chain.”

Difference between doses produced, doses administered
With states struggling to get doses of Covid-19 vaccines under the Centre’s revised procurement policy, companies are making efforts to ramp up production. Prompted by an inadequate supply of doses, many states have shut down a number of vaccination centres.

In an affidavit in the Supreme Court, the central government said vaccine makers – Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech – have said they can produce 6.5 crore doses and 2 crore doses each month, respectively. This means the total output for each month can be pegged at 8.5 crore doses.

However, data on CoWIN for the month of May shows that only 3.4 crore doses were administered in the first three weeks of May.

This would mean that the difference between vaccines produced and administered is about 3 crore doses per month and 9.7 lakh doses per day.

No doses being sent out of India: SII sources
Sources at the Pune-based Serum Institute of India said no doses of Covid-19 vaccines being produced at its facilities are being sent out of India.

“We are producing around 6-6.5 crore a month. Currently, no doses are being sent out of India, even for the GAVI-COVAX alliance. The maximum distribution of doses is happening and will happen in the last week of May as well. As per the government’s policy, 50 per cent of doses are being given to the Centre, 50 per cent to states and private hospitals through the procurement process.”

Panacea Biotec to begin production of Sputnik V vaccine
Two batches of Sputnik V vaccines comprising an estimated 3 lakh doses have landed in India from Russia to date.

Deepak Sapra, CEO (API and Services), Dr Reddy’s Laboratories told India Today that the production of Sputnik V in the country will not begin before July 2021. Dr Reddy’s had partnered with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to bring the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine to India.

The RDIF announced on Monday that Indian pharmaceutical firm Panacea Biotec will begin the production of Sputnik V vaccines in India. The first batch of vaccines produced by Panacea Biotec will be shipped to the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow for quality control. This is the same institute where the Sputnik V vaccine was developed.

Full-scale production of the vaccine is expected to begin in India this summer, said RDIF. In April of this year, the RDIF had said that Panacea Biotec plans to produce 100 million doses of Sputnik V annually.

Opposition questions gap between vaccine production, distribution
The opposition has been questioning the gap between production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in India.

Referring to the same, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet, “Vaccination is the key to controlling the pandemic but GOI doesn’t seem to care.”

In a tweet, AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi said on Monday, “Everyday 1000000 vaccine doses are “missing”. Is this happening because Modi has reserved 25% vaccines for private sector? Or because he’s forcing people to register on CoWin rather than allow walk-in vaccination?” India Today