Despite second wave, Union govt yet to place another vaccine order

Despite second wave, Union govt yet to place another vaccine order
Despite a raging second wave of COVID-19 and many states having to shut vaccination centres down due to a shortage, the Union government is yet to place another order for vaccines, reported Business Standard. According to the report, the last order was placed in March with the companies — 110 million with Serum Institute of India for Covishield and 20 million with Bharat Biotech for Covaxin. The source in the report said the order will be completed by mid-May. State governments, however, are placing orders with the companies as the burden of vaccinating the population between the ages of 18 and 44 falls squarely on them. Although it is on the Centre to vaccinate those above the age of 45 and other priority groups, it is a concern that another order is yet to be placed. While vaccinations have begun for the 18-45 group, only a few lakh people have been administered the dose. According to PIB’s vaccination coverage bulletin, 10.25 crore people above the age of 45 (excluding priority groups) have received the first dose, but just 1.3 crore people have received the second dose. According to the Economic Times, vaccination rates for the second dose have fallen. It states that roughly 50 lakh people were to get their second dose around May 1, but only seven lakh have. While states have cancelled vaccination drives on select days, appointments have also been cancelled for many waiting for their second dose because of a shortage. At the same time, Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla told Financial Times in an interview that the vaccination shortage would continue until July, which is when the government will be able to ramp up production. He told the paper that supply had not been boosted earlier because “there were no orders, we did not think we needed to make more than 1bn doses a year.” In the second half of last month, the government approved a payment of about Rs 4,500 crore as advance to vaccine makers like Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech against future supplies. The finance ministry has reportedly relaxed rules to allow advance payment without bank guarantee to help the vaccine makers ramp up production. As part of this, SII would get Rs 3,000 crore in advance and Bharat Biotech about Rs 1,500 crore. This supply credit, however, Poonawalla earlier said, would work out to roughly Rs 2,000 crore. This is the cost of 110 million doses at Rs 150 per dose. The daily COVID-19 cases in India saw a slight dip on Monday with 3.68 lakh new coronavirus infections being reported in a day, taking the total tally to 1,99,25,604. The death toll increased to 2,18,959 with 3,417 daily new fatalities. The active cases have increased to 34,13,642 comprising 17.13% of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate stands at 81.77%.

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