The looming disaster called India’s ‘Covid-19 vaccination program’

What will the government offer as an explanation when at the end of this year it will barely manage to achieve less than half of what it has promised on affidavit in the Supreme Court?

  • Alok Jagdhari

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Health Minster Dr Harshvardhan have said that the government intends to vaccinate the entire Indian population (above  two years of age) as a measure to fight the devastating ongoing covid-19 pandemic that by some estimates has already taken a million lives  and devastated innumerable families in the country.

In response to the Supreme Court hauling it up for its poor management of the vaccination programme and the Covid-19 pandemic as a whole, the government of India filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court to this effect.

The government said that it intends to do this by administering 50 crore does of Covishield, 40 crore doses of Covaxin, 30 Crore does of Bio E subunit, 5 crore doses of Zydus Cadilla DNA and 10 Crore doses of Sputnik V, amounting to a total of 135 crore doses.

It is estimated that by July 31, with present supply and stock levels of all vaccines, a total of 51.6 crore doses will be administered, whereas the total adult population of 93-94 crores needs approximately 188 crore vaccines till December 31st. So from August 2021 to December 31, 2021, the government says it will procure and administer roughly 135 core vaccines.

Given the production capacities of vaccine production in the country, the question is, how does the government intend to achieve this target that it is sworn to on affidavit in none other than the Supreme Court?

The Serum Institute of India, which produces the Oxford-AstraZennica vaccine ‘Covishield’,  has a maximum installed production capacity of 7 crore vaccines per month. The institute has been planning to increase its production level to 10 crore per month but on an average they have delivered only 4 crore per month, whereas the government expects it to produce 10 crore vaccines per month.

The other vaccine being extensively used in India is ‘Covaxin’, manufactured by Hyderabad based, Bharat Biotech. The government of India is counting on this manufacturer to deliver 10 crore shots per month, but all that the lab has managed to deliver in the last six months is 5 crore vaccines. This vaccine has also been rejected by authorities in Brazil.

Further, Biological-e on its website has stated that it plans to produce 10cr vaccine shots during the whole of 2021, while the Zydus Cadilla and Bio-E vaccines have not even been approved.

At the same time, SputnikV has been rejected by the Brazilian ANVISA and not approved by the EU even after 4 months of investigation.

A closer look at all these facts regarding the vaccine production capacities of the country reveals that, clearly the government, that too on affidavit, expects to gaslight its way out of this devastating disaster which to a great degree has been made worse by the total mismanagement and lack of needed action at the start by the government.

The government strategy seems to be to expecting delivery of 90 crore vaccines from two companies that have produced less than on-third of the required doses in the last 6 months and from 3 companies that have not produced a single dose of vaccine as yet.

Of these 135 crore doses, the government intends to use 35 crore doses of  vaccines that have no approval and 50 Crore does of (Covaxin and Sputnik V) that don’t have international approvals.

In one of the most important life and death issues ever facing the nation, the government of India’s strategy is clearly to gaslight its way out of a tight spot Supreme Court put it into. What’s even more alarming is that the 2 most effective vaccines being used extensively in Europe and N America, Pfizer and Moderna, are not on this list.

Gas-lighting to try to work yourself out of a tight spot in the SC is one thing, while the realities of producing vaccines are quite another which now leaves the government in a very tight spot 6 months down the road.

What will the government offer as an explanation when at the end of this year it will barely manage to achieve less than half of what it has promised on affidavit in the Supreme Court?

( Alok Jagdhari is founding partner at 92angels)

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