Poor internet connectivity hampers rural vaccination

By Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Amid concerns that not all Covid-19 vaccines produced in India are immediately available for the country’s vaccination drive, the Centre on Monday clarified that there is a time lag of at least 8-9 days in vaccines reaching vaccination centres from the factories.

A look at available data suggests that while Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech may be producing 6 crore and 2 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin, respectively, in May, total vaccinations this month at the most will touch only the 5 crore mark.

Responding to this concern in a press briefing on Monday, Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said that all vaccines first undergo statutory stability and sterility tests at the factories, which takes about a week.

“Then they are divided into batches and each batch is sent to the Central Drugs Laboratories at Kasauli for testing, which takes 1-2 days more. It takes about 8-9 days before a vaccine produced today to be available for use at a vaccination centre,” he said.

The ministry insisted that it was coordinating with foreign vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna in two ways: approval and procurement. Based on their replies, the Centre will decide on allocation of vaccine doses to states.

“We are coordinating with (Pfizer and Moderna)… It depends on (their) surplus (stock) and how much they can provide to India. They will come back to us and we will ensure and facilitate the vaccine procurement,” he said. “On that basis we may be able to supply to the states.”

These remarks come in the backdrop of states like Delhi and Punjab saying that the foreign vaccine manufacturing companies Pfizer and Moderna have declined to  engage with states and said that they will deal only with the Centre.

Meanwhile Pfizer, whose negotiation with the Indian government is stuck over the indemnity clause as it wants complete protection from lawsuits in cases of adverse events following immunisation, told this newspaper that discussions are still being held.