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Where are vaccines going? SII and Bharat Biotech continue to produce 8 crore vaccines every month, only 5 crore to be available by the end of May

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There is a mystery in India’s vaccination numbers that official figures have not been able to explain. The secret is that according to both government announcements and vaccine manufacturers, India is producing at least 27 lakh doses a day on an average even without Sputnik being taken into account. Nevertheless, the average vaccination in the first three weeks of May has averaged only 16.2 lakh doses and states are complaining of the shortage. Many states have had to stop vaccination operations due to lack of vaccine.

The government said in an affidavit in the Supreme Court earlier this month that the Serum Institute of India (SII) was producing 6.5 crore doses of Kovishield a month and that Bharat Biotech would be producing 2 crore doses of Kovaxin a month. Which was to be increased to 5.5 crore doses a month by July. It also said that Sputnik is expected to increase production from 30 lakh per month to 1.2 crore per month by July.

Production of Kovishield 6-7 crores

SII itself has repeatedly stated that its production in a month is 60-70 million doses i.e. 6-7 crores. Krishna Ala, CMD of Bharat Biotech, said that the company was ready to produce 2 crore doses in April and will produce 30 million doses in May. If these figures are taken care of, then in May there are 85 crore doses of Kovishield and Kovaxin. An average of 27.4 lakh doses are made in a day for a month of 31 days. It is believed that Bharat Biotech has not reached the estimated 3 crore doses this month and has produced only 2 crore in April.

3.6 million fewer vaccines given so far in May

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Now, look at the immunization data from the CoWin portal. They show that in the first 22 days of May, less than 3.6 crore doses have been given in India. That means only 16.2 million doses each day. If the vaccine is given to the states at the same rate, then only 50 million doses will be delivered. However, the number is steadily declining and the average for the last seven days (16 to 22 May) has been less than 1.3 million.

Even if 5 crore doses are given at the end of the month, the question remains, what is the point of just 5 crore when at least 8.5 crore doses are being produced? One explanation could be that the quota for the private sector, which is a quarter of total production, is being underutilized for various reasons, including delays in deals with manufacturers. But these reasons can also explain only a few gaps.

Brakes on vaccination campaign in many states

States have repeatedly complained of shortage of supply. For example, on Sunday, Karnataka stopped vaccinations for the age group 18–44 citing the shortage. Delhi did the same on Saturday and Maharashtra took a similar step on 12 May. On Saturday, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, demanding that the supply be discontinued in private hospitals. The grounds he cited were that supplies were constrained, and that these hospitals were charging excessive amounts for vaccines.

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