'Will deal only with Centre': Moderna refuses to sell Covid vaccines directly to Punjab govt

Punjab State Nodal Officer for vaccination Vikas Garg said that all vaccine manufacturers were approached for direct purchase of various Covid vaccine as per the directions of CM Amarinder.
In this file photo taken on November 18, 2020 shows a syringe and a bottle reading 'Vaccine Covid-19' next to the Moderna biotech company logo. (Photo | AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 18, 2020 shows a syringe and a bottle reading 'Vaccine Covid-19' next to the Moderna biotech company logo. (Photo | AFP)

NEW DELHI:   Refusal by Moderna, a US based Covid-19 vaccine maker, on Sunday to directly supply doses to the Punjab government came as a reminder that global bids by individual states to procure vaccines from the international market may not yield favourable results.

Experts said the international tenders floated by several state governments like UP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Kerala, apart from Punjab, pit them against one another, besides sending a wrong message that the Covid response in the country is uncoordinated.

In a country already reeling under an acute shortage of vaccines, this development adds to the worries of the authorities as only around 14.4 crore people have received their first dose, while a meagre 4.14 crore have got the second one.

The daily vaccination number, too, has come down to just 1-2 million a day, after peaking to over four million per day in early April. The Punjab government, which had approached top vaccine makers, including Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, J&J and Sputnik V for direct supply, said Moderna got back claiming it would “only deal with Government of India”. 

US pharma giants refuse to do deals with state govts

“One of Covid vaccine manufacturers, Moderna, has refused to send direct vaccination to the Punjab government as according to their policy, they only deal with the Government of India and not with any state government or private parties,” said a statement issued by Punjab’s Information and Public Relations Department on Sunday.

Sources in the Union health ministry said that Pfizer too, with which negotiations are on for its vaccine supply in India, has already indicated that it will engage only with a centralised government agency. An official conceded that while technically states are now free to procure vaccines from the vaccine makers abroad, it may not lead to greater access to the crucial supply as supplies by most companies are largely pre-booked and most of the companies are interested in dealing with federal governments.

That India is late on table for vaccine procurement internationally is evident from the fact that it is now pleading with companies for vaccines, even though over 90 % of the supplies by top companies are reported to be totally booked for 2021. E conomist R Ramakumar, talking to this newspaper had earlier said that procurement by a centralised agency is particularly helpful to ensure equitable distribution and availability of the vaccines in India.

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The New Indian Express