The Serum Institute of India has informed the Maharashtra government that it will not be able to provide Covishield vaccines to them until May 26, The Indian Express reported on Friday, quoting Health Minister Rajesh Tope.
“Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had a telephone conversation with the Serum chief in London on the issue and was informed that they could not give the doses till May 26,” Tope said, referring to Adar Poonawalla, who had left the country earlier this month after he claimed that he was being threatened in order to secure vaccines.
The minister said that Maharashtra was ready to purchase a big consignment of doses from from the manufacturer as the state had the capability to administer at least 8 lakh to 10 lakh doses daily at 5,000 to 7,000 centres. But the Serum Institute chief expressed his inability to provide the doses, Tope said.
He said the pace of vaccination in Maharashtra had been slow because there are limited doses available.
The health official also flagged shortages of Covaxin, the other vaccine being used in India, which is produced by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech. Tope said about four to five lakh beneficiaries, who received Covaxin, had been waiting for their second dose but stocks were not being made available by the manufacturer or the Centre.
“The state has written several letters to the Centre for Covaxin doses,” the minister added. “However, if supply does not come on time we have no other option but to divert the doses purchased by the state for the age group 18-44 years, as this group of beneficiaries need the second shot of Covaxin.”
So far 2.15 lakh adults have been vaccinated in the state. For this, the Maharashtra government had purchased 3 lakh Covishield vaccine doses, 4.79 lakh Covaxin doses, and another 3.5 lakh doses of Covishield were awaited, according to The Indian Express.
The Modi-led administration has been widely criticised for opening up vaccination for all adults, without a proper supply schedule from manufacturers. Several states have had to delay the third phase of vaccination as enough supplies are not available to handle the burden of inoculating nearly 60 crore citizens in the 18-44 age group who became eligible to receive the jab from May 1.
States have flagged problems with the new vaccine procurement strategy. India decided in April to allow state governments and private hospitals to purchase up to half of the vaccines stocks, although under the new plan they could end up paying double or more what government has paid.
Moreover, several state governments, including Maharashtra, say the vaccine manufacturers are refusing to sell them vaccines as most of the stocks have been booked by the central government, leaving very little for them.