Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday urged the centre to share COVID-19 vaccine formulas and allow more companies to manufacture doses – of which there is an acute shortage as the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech scramble to match demand from India and abroad.
At present India has two vaccines and only two companies making them – Covishield (by the Serum Institute) and Covaxin (by Bharat Biotech) – and both have struggled to raise output. A third – Russia’s Sputnik V – has been cleared but not yet rolled out; this will be produced by six companies.
Mr Kejriwal – whose government is squabbling with the centre over vaccine and oxygen availability – said supply could be increased if more firms were allowed to make the vaccines.
“Only two companies are producing vaccines. They produce only six to seven crore a month. This way, it will take over two years to vaccinate everyone… many waves will have come by then. It is important to increase vaccine production and frame a national plan,” Mr Kejriwal said.
“… several companies should be deployed to produce vaccines. Centre should collect the formula from these two and give it to the others so they can produce vaccines safely,” he added.
“The centre has the power to do this in these difficult times,” Mr Kejriwal stressed.
The Chief Minister said his government hoped to vaccine all Delhi residents within three months, but needed an uninterrupted supply of vaccines to achieve that goal.
“We’re administering 1.25 lakh doses every day. We’ll begin vaccinating over three lakh every day. We aim to vaccinate all residents within three months but we’re facing shortage,” he said.
Mr Kejriwal also spoke about the decline in daily new Covid cases in Delhi – from a high of around 28,000 per day late last month – and said he had used the lockdown to scale up infrastructure.
“With your cooperation, the lockdown was successful. We’ve increased the number of oxygen beds in the past few days. Yesterday we set up 500 new ICU beds near GTB Hospital,” he said.
“Now there is no shortage of ICU and oxygen beds in Delhi,” the Chief Minister added.
Delhi remains under a Covid lockdown till 5 am on May 17.
This morning’s appeal on vaccines comes a day after the Health Minister issued a SOS.
Satyendar Jain said the city only had enough Covaxin doses for a day and Covishield for four. The Chief Minister reiterated that today, saying, “We’re left with stock that will last only a few days.”
Vaccine supply issues – always a matter of concern – have become more pronounced since the centre widened the net to include all adults over 18 from May 1.
Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech have struggled to supply the necessary doses, leading to vaccination centres in Delhi, Maharashtra and other states being forced to shut down. Concern over pricing – states pay at least double what the centre does – have further slowed procurement.
Late Monday night the centre hit back over Delhi red-flagging low vaccine stocks, and accused the Arvind Kejriwal government of buying only 5.5 lakh doses.
The ruling AAP then refuted the claim, and shared what it said was evidence the centre was deliberately “cutting short vaccine supplies to states and selling that to foreign countries“.
On Monday Delhi recorded around 12,600 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours. The active caseload is now a little over 85,000 and the positivity rate is below 20 per cent for the first time since early April.
The dip in tests – from nearly 80,000 on Friday to around 66,000 on Monday – did raise concern.