Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu on Tuesday joined the list of states that have decided to float global tenders for procuring coronavirus vaccines amid shortages of supply from domestic manufacturers, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha have already issued such tenders, PTI reported.
“Till now, we had depended only on vaccines supplied by the Centre,” Karnataka Covid task force head and Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayan told NDTV. “Now, we have been instructed to float the tender and to complete the process within seven days.”
Karnataka Chief Secretary P Ravi Kumar said the the state was not getting adequate vaccines because of shortages, it had decided to import the doses, reported PTI.
Andhra Pradesh Principal Secretary (Health) Anil Kumar Singhal told PTI that the state government will issue a tender in a day or two for vaccines from foreign manufacturers.
“We have already placed an order for purchase of Sputnik V vaccine but Dr Reddys Laboratories, the local manufacturer, said it will give clarity on supplies only after May 15 after assessing the production capacity,” Singhal said. He, however, added that the foreign manufacturer will have to secure regulatory and statutory approvals from the Centre.
The Tamil Nadu government said that global tenders would be floated for procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and all measures shall be taken expeditiously to vaccinate those between the ages of 18 and 45, reported PTI. Chief Minister MK Stalin also ordered industries and medical departments to set up more oxygen producing units and procure it from steel plants situated in other states.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that the Aam Aadmi Party government in the national Capital will also issue such tenders. However, he criticised the Centre for suggesting this route as it would mean that state government which can afford to buy vaccines at higher prices will have an upper hand.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party wants states to fight among themselves in the international market,” Sisodia said. “For the first time in 70 years, the central government is unwilling to take responsibility for procuring vaccines.”
As for Telangana, the government said in an official statement that it would invite global tenders to procure vaccines on “a war footing”.
Later on Wednesday, the Rajasthan government announced that it was also exploring the possibility of purchasing Covid-19 vaccines from other countries, reported the Hindustan Times.
“On directions from the chief minister, the officers are exploring the possibilities of global tenders to purchase Covid vaccines,” Health Minister Raghu Sharma said.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, however, it would have been better if the central government had procured the vaccines from overseas and distributed them to the states.
Uttar Pradesh has already started the process of acquiring four crore doses from abroad. It may directly procure a large amount of vaccines like Sputnik V besides those developed by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, PTI reported. Odisha Chief Secretary SC Mohapatra also said that the state Cabinet has cleared the decision, according to the news agency.
On Monday, Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray had said Mumbai’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, has been asked to look into the possibility of procuring Covid-19 vaccines from other countries.
The move to approach international markets came as several states have reported shortages of vaccines, more so after all adults became eligible for the shots since May 1. On Wednesday, Sisodia said that over 100 vaccination centres in Delhi, which were administering the Covaxin shot, had to be shut because its manufacturer Bharat Biotech said it cannot provide doses to the Capital now.
The Narendra Modi-led administration at the Centre has been widely criticised for opening up vaccination for all adults, without a proper supply schedule from manufacturers, among other things. Under the new vaccination policy, states and private hospitals have the onus of procuring vaccines for those in the 18-44 age group, from the manufacturers directly. But the policy leaves only 50% of the vaccines manufactured by Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India to be used to inoculate nearly 60 crore beneficiaries in this age group. The remaining half of the stock is earmarked for the Centre to vaccinate priority groups.