03 May 2021: Reports claiming fresh COVID-19 vaccine orders not placed baseless: Government
The Union Health Ministry on Monday refuted media reports that claimed that the central government had not placed fresh orders for COVID-19 vaccines.
The Ministry said that such reports were "completely incorrect and not based on facts."
The development comes as India has liberalized its vaccination program, inviting the country's 18-45 age population to be inoculated from May 1 onwards.
Quote: Paid 100% advance for 11 crore doses to SII: Ministry
The Ministry said, "It is clarified that 100% advance of Rs. 1,732.50 cr was released to Serum Institute of India (SII) on 28.04.2021 for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine during May, June, and July, and was received by them on 28.04.2021."
"As on date, against the last order of 10 crore doses for supplies of Covishield vaccine, 8.744 crore doses have been delivered."
SII: Received full advance payment from Centre: SII CEO
In a statement Monday evening, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said that they have received the Centre's advance payment for 11 crore doses. Fifteen crore doses have already been supplied (total 26 crore doses supplied till date).
Another 11 crore doses would be supplied in the second channel for states and private hospitals in the next few months, the statement further added.
Fact: 100% advance to Bharat Biotech also paid: Ministry
The Ministry further said that 100% advance of Rs. 787 crore was released to Bharat Biotech for 5 crore COVAXIN doses during May, June, and July. Against the last order of 2 crore doses of COVAXIN, 0.8813 crore doses have been delivered, it added.
Report: Report claimed Centre had not placed fresh orders
A report in the Business Standard published earlier in the day had claimed that the Centre has not yet placed fresh orders with the two Indian vaccine manufacturers (SII and Bharat Biotech).
The report came at a time when India is facing a shortage of vaccines, which has hindered plans to expand the nationwide vaccination drive to the 18-45 age group.
Vaccination: Vaccine shortage hinders expansion of immunization drive
After the Centre's expansion of the vaccination drive, several states had announced that they would not be able to inoculate the 18-45 age group.
Delhi, Gujarat, Odisha, and Maharashtra have now started vaccinations for the lower age group, however, only at select centers.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab have deferred vaccinations for the group.
India has administered 15.71cr vaccine doses so far.
Poonawalla: Vaccine shortage will continue through July: Poonawalla
In an interview with the Financial Times, Poonawalla said that the SII's current production capacity is 60-70 million doses, hinting that the company may not hit the 100-million-dose capacity until July.
Adding that the authorities had not expected to tackle a second wave, he claimed politicians had maligned the SII and said the government was responsible for the policy in place.
Fact: 'Vaccine manufacturing a specialized process; rapid production increase impossible'
In his Monday evening statement, Poonawalla also said that vaccine manufacturing is a specialized process. "It is therefore not possible to ramp up production overnight," he said, adding that India is a vast country.
Opposition: Opposition parties call for free vaccinations
Separately, the leaders of 13 Opposition parties have urged the Centre to launch a free mass vaccination drive across the country.
They also requested the Centre to ensure the uninterrupted supply of oxygen to all hospitals and health centers.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee were among the signatories.
Supreme Court: Current policy detrimental to right to public health: SC
In a late-night order on Sunday, the Supreme Court gave the Centre until May 10 to review its initiatives and policies regarding the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the availability of oxygen and other essential medical supplies, and ensuring their procurement at affordable prices.
The court had said that the current policy was a detriment to the right to public health.