NEW DELHI: The Centre is purchasing Covishield and Covaxin doses at the rate of Rs 205 and Rs 215 per dose, respectively, and there is only a marginal difference in the purchase price of the two vaccines for the government, the Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.
In a written reply, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar also said that the government is not facing any difficulty in procuring and arranging vaccines for states and Union territories (UTs).
In fact, the Government of India has been supplying vaccines free of cost to the states/UTs for administration to prioritised beneficiaries as recommended by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC).
"Advance visibility of these allocations, that is, the total doses of vaccine that would be available to a state and UT, is provided to them 15 days in advance, so as to enable them to plan for acceleration of vaccination coverage while being cognizant of the available vaccines," the minister said.
The Government of India allocates vaccines to states/UTs based on criteria such as pro rata target population, progress of vaccination in the state and UT and vaccine wastage.
"According to the latest supply order, the Government of India is purchasing Covishield (exclusive of taxes) at the rate of Rs 205 per dose and Covaxin at the rate of Rs 215 per dose.
There is only a marginal difference in the purchase price of the two vaccines for the Government of India," Pawar said in the written reply.
As on July 20, 2021, a total of 42.52 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin have been supplied for COVID-19 vaccination drive in India.
Till July, around Rs 8,071.09 crore has been spent on purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
The price of vaccine for procurement by the Government of India is negotiated by NEGVAC and its subgroups involving detailed deliberations with the vaccine manufacturers, the minister told the House in response to a separate question.
She further elaborated on the initiatives taken by the Union government to help Indian vaccine manufacturers who are in the process of developing COVID-19 vaccine which are in advance stage of trial.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science and Technology is implementing 'COVID Suraksha- the Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission'.
Under the mission, facility augmentation for production of Covaxin is being supported whereby Bharat Biotech and three public sector enterprises, including Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, Mumbai; Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL), Hyderabad; and Bharat Immunologicals Biologicals Limited (BIBCOL), Bulandshahr, are being supported.
Additionally, technology transfer of Covaxin production to a consortium of partners, including Hester Biosciences and OmniBRx Biotechnologies Pvt Ltd led by Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC), Department of Science and Technology, Government of Gujarat, is being facilitated by the Department of Biotechnology, the minister said.
The Government of India has also provided financial assistance to domestic vaccine manufacturer Biological E' which is at present in advance phase III clinical trial for 'At-risk manufacturing' of COVID-19 vaccine, she added.
As on date, no foreign COVID-19 vaccines have been purchased or received as donation by the government of India, Bharati said.
On whether India in the first instance exported vaccine without assessing the impact of the second wave and need of vaccine in the country, Pawar, in a written reply, said the government of India has secured COVID-19 vaccines for the eligible beneficiaries as per the availability of vaccines in the country.
In response to another question on whether the government has signed any agreement with foreign countries for supplying Covid vaccine to India, the minister said while the government of India is engaged in a dialogue with foreign manufacturers of Covid vaccine, no specific agreement has been signed as yet.
The export quantity comprised vaccines committed under international agreements by the domestic manufacturer to COVAX and its individual commitments to other countries or organisations and vaccines supplied through the "Vaccine Maitri" initiative, Pawar said in the written reply.
Elaborating on the reasons for not identifying journalists as frontline workers and giving them priority for vaccination, she said COVID-19 vaccination is guided by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) on the basis of concurrent scientific evidence.
The prioritisation for vaccination has been done with an aim to protect the pandemic response and health system and to have maximum impact on reduction of disease and deaths due to COVID-19, she said.
This was later followed by age-based prioritisation, which is considered equitable and which has also been the practice globally, Pawar stated.
On the total doses of foreign vaccines so far received on purchase or as donation so far and the timeline fixed by the government to vaccinate all the eligible people in the country, she said, "As on date, no foreign COVID-19 vaccine has been purchased or received as donation by the government of India".
In view of the dynamic and evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, no fixed timelines at present can be indicated for the completion of the vaccination drive, however, it is expected that all beneficiaries aged 18 years and above will be vaccinated by December 2021, she stated.
The National COVID-19 Vaccination Drive is progressing at a steady pace and Covid vaccination has improved significantly from 2.35 lakh doses per day in the month of January 2021 to an average of 39.89 lakh doses per day in the month of June 2021, Pawar said.
However, in order to raise awareness about COVID-19 vaccines, address vaccine hesitancy and sustain vaccine confidence, a communication strategy is in , lace which is being implemented across all states and UTs, she said in another reply.
Under the National Covid Vaccination Program, from January 16 to April 30 2021, 100 per cent of vaccine doses were procured by the government of India and provided free of cost to state governments.
From May 1 to June 20, "The Liberalized Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy" was brought in effect in order to incentivize production by vaccine manufacturers and encourage new COVID-19 vaccines.
Under this strategy, states and UTs and private hospitals were allowed to procure COVID-19 vaccine directly from manufacturers.
The government of India procured 50 per cent of monthly vaccine production by the domestic manufacturers, the state government and private hospitals procured remaining 50 per cent doses.
The quantity of doses available for states and UTs and private hospitals was worked out on state-wise population of 18 to 44 years on pro-rata basis, Pawar said in her reply.
The "Revised Guidelines for Implementation of National COVID Vaccination Program" were issued on June 8, to be effective from June 21 under which the government of India is procuring 75 per cent of COVID-19 vaccines produced in the country and providing it free of cost to states and UTs.
The states and UTs, in turn, will administer the vaccines free of cost to all citizens as per priority.
The domestic vaccine manufacturers have the option to provide 25 per cent of their monthly vaccine production directly to private hospitals.
The guidelines were reviewed and revised keeping in view the experiences gained from May 1 this year and the repeated requests received from states, the reply stated.
Advance visibility of vaccine allocation -- total doses that would be available for states and UTs -- are provided 15 days in advance to enable them to plan for acceleration of vaccination coverage while being cognizant of the available vaccines, she said in a written reply.
Asked whether the government is aware that many inoculation sites got closed down due to non-availability of vaccines there, Pawar said, "There has been no shortage of vaccines and the Government of India has been providing free supply of vaccines to states and UTs for administration to prioritised beneficiaries as recommended by NEGVAC (National Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration against COVID-19)."
On whether the government is aware that less than 10 per cent of Indians have got single dose of Covid vaccine despite India being the world's leading vaccine manufacturer, the minister said as of July 20, around 34.5 per cent of the estimated population aged 18 years and above has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
As of July 20, 2021, a total of 32.64 crore first doses and 8.55 crore second doses have been administered across the country.
A total of 2.15 lakh COVID-19 Vaccination Centres have been operational across the country, Pawar said.
The Government of India has taken many steps to augment the domestic manufacturing capacity of COVID-19 vaccines.
These include support to M/s Bharat Biotech and three Public Sector Enterprises under 'Mission COVID Suraksha-the Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission', technology transfer of Covaxin production, financial assistance to one of the domestic vaccine manufacturers for 'at-risk manufacturing', advance payment against the supply orders placed with M/s Serum Institute of India and M/s Bharat Biotech, and streamlining of regulatory norms for approval of vaccines, the minister said.