Bharat Biotech Needs to Up its Game Nine Times to Help India Vaccinate All Adults by Year-End

The Central government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court on vaccine availability shows that Bharat Biotech will have to significantly up its game over the next six months if India is to achieve its aim of vaccinating all its adults by this December. A rough estimate shows the company will have to increase supplies by at least nine times its current level. India is banking on Bharat Biotech to supply a total of 48 crore doses of COVAXIN out of the 187 crore doses needed to vaccinate all 93-94 crore adults in the country, which will be nearly 26 per cent of all jabs. However, so far COVAXIN accounts for only 12 per cent of all the jabs given in the country as on date.

Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya, along with Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy, visited Bharat Biotech’s vaccine manufacturing facility on Sunday to review the production of vaccines in Hyderabad.

About 3.8 crore COVAXIN jabs have been administered till date. An order of 8 crore jabs was placed with Bharat Biotech by the Centre since January for supply till July. Bharat Biotech on June 15 said it had supplied over four crore doses so far, with some doses in stock with states. Still, Bharat Biotech has, so far, only delivered half out of what it is to supply by the end of July.

Further, Bharat Biotech has a much bigger order of 19 crore doses to be supplied from August on, for which it has already been provided 30 per cent advance money. Given that the government has said, in its affidavit in Supreme Court, that it is expecting 40 crore doses of COVAXIN between August and December, another order of 21 crore doses of COVAXIN could be placed later this year.

The big question is will Bharat Biotech be able to increase its supply by nearly nine times its present level to supply 44 crore doses between July and December, when it has struggled to supply four crore doses over last five months. Bharat Biotech has promised so citing higher production capacity of its various units starting July but its record so far hardly inspires confidence.

In its affidavit to the Supreme Court, the government said Bharat Biotech had only supplied 2.29 crore doses as on June 12 out of an order of 8 crore doses that it is to supply to the government by end of July. The government also said, in the affidavit, that as on June 12, no supplies had come from Bharat Biotech against the order of five crore vaccines placed with it on May 5.

But given 3.8 crore doses of COVAXIN have been administered so far, as per CoWIN portal, either more supplies from Bharat Biotech have come for the last 15 days or the differential (between 3.8 crore and 2.29 crore doses) is on account of the number of doses that Bharat Biotech provided to states directly for the 18-44 age group while the decentralised vaccine policy was in place between May 1-June 21.

Bharat Biotech, in a statement, in May, had said the timeline for manufacturing, testing and release for a batch of COVAXIN was approximately 120 days, and thus the production batches that were initiated during March will be ready for supply only during the month of June.

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