NEW DELHI: Looking to ramp up supplies ahead of the opening of Covid-19 vaccination to all citizens over 18 years of age, the government has 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, sources said.
SII will supply 200 million doses and Bharat Biotech is to supply another 90 million doses to the government by July at a pre-agreed rate of Rs 150 per dose.
Sources said the finance ministry has relaxed rules to allow advance payment without bank guarantee to help the vaccine makers ramp up production.
SII will get Rs 3,000 crore in advance and Bharat Biotech about Rs 1,500 crore.
Commenting on the decision during a media briefing, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said the finance minister has approved to provide credit line to vaccine manufacturers and this approval does not require vetting by the Cabinet.
"I think the finance minister has approved and this is part of her powers to approve these funds because it is in the form of credit line, and will be backed with the adequate supplies of vaccines to support the government procurement and vaccination programme of the government of India," he said.
Earlier this month, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had said that the company would require around Rs 3,000 crore to ramp up production capacity for making vaccines for COVID-19.
The decision to provide credit line was hailed by SII.
"On behalf of the vaccine industry in India, I would like to thank and applaud Shri @narendramodi Ji, @nsitharaman Ji, for your decisive policy changes and swift financial aid which will help vaccine production and distribution in India," Poonawalla said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the government on Monday allowed citizens over the age of 18 years to receive Covid-19 vaccination from May 1 as it seeks to control the rapid spread of the virus.
Under the third phase of its vaccination strategy, manufacturers will be required to supply 50 per cent of their monthly doses to the government and the rest to state governments or the open market.
Vaccination will continue as before in the government of India vaccination centres free of cost for the eligible population -- healthcare and frontline workers and all people above 45 years of age.
Latest data showed that over 2.59 lakh coronavirus infections pushed overall cases in India to more than 1.53 crore, making the country the second-worst affected nation after the US, which has reported more than 3.1 crore infections.
India's deaths from COVID-19 rose by a record 1,761 to over 1.8 lakh.
With regard to impact of surging COVID-19 cases on the economy, Goyal said, India Inc is completely satisfied with the steps taken by the government to deal with the situation.
The government decision on vaccination for all above 18 years taken on Monday will give a boost in maintaining economic activity, he said.
The Commerce Minister said he had discussions with three industry chambers and they have informed that their members would like to pay and implement the vaccination for their employees.
Chambers have their intention to import vaccine if at all available, he added.