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South awaits vaccine supply timelines to fix launch dates


Five major southern states will be able to kick off the vaccination campaign for people in the 18-44 year age group only after a week or so as they are waiting for clear supply commitments from manufacturers. Serum Institute (Covishield), Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) and Dr Reddy’s (Sputnik V) are only the manufactures licensed to make vaccines in India. Andhra Pradesh is in talks with all of them, while Karnataka has placed orders with Serum Institute. Kerala is talking to both Serum and Bharat Bio.

Sections of private hospital chains had nursed thin hopes of kicking off the next phase of the campaign at least symbolically on May Day, but have given up hopes of pulling it off even during May. Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa on Thursday said his government has placed orders for one crore doses of vaccine, and the next phase of vaccination will happen in stages. The vaccination drive, he said, will continue based on the availability. A senior official, when contacted, could not commit to a timeline. Karnataka, he said, has placed orders with manufacturers, and they are likely to supply only after weeks.

The Centre has lobbed the ball into states’ courts and kicked off a differential pricing regime by which states will buy at Rs 300 per dose of Covishield and Rs 400 per dose of Covaxin (Bharat Bio has slashed the price by Rs 200). While states will buy in bulk from manufacturers, it is private hospitals that are unclear when they will be able to resume inoculation. Aster DM Healthcare’s India chief executive Harish Pillai said the priority of manufacturers was to supply to governments.

Private hospitals, he said, might get vaccines only by mid-June or later, which meant they may not have any stocks on May 1. Pillai urged the government to continue with the present system at least for those 45 years and above. “Otherwise for all practical purposes we will not have any stock from May 1st in most of our Aster network hospitals,” he said. Aster runs 14 hospitals in five southern states.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has urged the Centre to drop changes to the policy and to continue with supplying vaccines free of cost to states as before. Former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy slammed the government for making the announcement without proper preparations and stocks. The government, he said, does not even have stocks to provide a second dose to citizens. The Andhra Pradesh government has said it was in touch with all three manufacturers and could take a few days for them to respond as they are meeting the orders from the union government.

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