New Delhi: There has been no delay in entering into purchase agreements with domestic COVID vaccine manufacturers and advance payments have also been made for the supply orders placed with them, the government informed Parliament on Friday.

In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha from Congress member Rahul Gandhi and TMC's Mala Roy, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said a total of 135 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses are expected to be available between August and December, and though no fixed timeline can be indicated for the completion of the vaccination drive, it is expected that all beneficiaries aged 18 years and above will be inoculated by December.

On the quantum of funds spent on the vaccination programme, she said Rs 9,725.15 crore have so far been spent on it, including for procurement of vaccines and the operational cost for vaccination.

On whether the government proposes to complete the exercise of full COVID vaccination of all adults by the end of the year, Pawar said it is an ongoing and dynamic process, which is being guided by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) on the basis of concurrent scientific evidence.

"In view of the dynamic and evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, no fixed timeline at present can be indicated for the completion of the vaccination drive, however, it is expected that beneficiaries aged 18 years and above will be vaccinated by December 2021," she said.

On whether the government has taken note of a significant delay in entering into advance purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers, thereby adversely affecting the pace of the vaccine rollout, the minister said, "There has been no delay in entering into purchase agreements with the domestic vaccine manufacturers. Advance payments have also been made to the manufacturers for the supply orders placed with them."

Govt still in talks with US company Pfizer: Mandaviya

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, responding to supplementariesduring Question Hour in Lok Sabha, said the government is still in talks with US company Pfizer with respect to making its vaccine available in India.

"There should be no politics on the issue of COVID and vaccination. The prime minister has said this several times," Mandaviya said in response to a question asked by Shiv Sena MP Rahul Shewale.

He said some opposition-ruled states raised the issue that health is a state subject and they should be taken into confidence.

"Many said Health is a state subject, states said we also need permission to buy vaccines. We said that we have no problem with this. The states said that we want to go out for tender to buy the vaccine. Modi ji said that we are ready to do whatever help is needed," the Health minister said.

He said accordingly, the states were allowed to buy 25% and 25% by the private (sector). The Centre was to procure 50% for the people.

"For the 25%, states issued tenders and we said we will provide all possible help. The suppliers were limited and the Indian government too was holding talks," he said.

Many issued global tenders. But there were only two Indian companies which had started vaccine manufacturing, the Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin), Mandaviya said.

He added that Moderna has registered in India and taken permission. Johnson and Johnson has tied up with Biological E and work on technology transfer has begun.

"With Pfizer, the Indian government was holding talks with it. But the company said it will not deal with the states and the Indian government is holding talks with us. Even today, an experts group is holding talks with the company," Mandaviya said.

Over 2.75 crore unutilised doses with states, hospitals

More than 2.75 crore balance and unutilized COVID-19 vaccine doses are still available with the states, Union Territories and private hospitals to be administered, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday.

Over 43.87 crore vaccine doses have been provided to states and UTs so far through all sources and a further 71,40,000 doses are in the pipeline, it said.

Of this, the total consumption including wastage is 41,12,30,353 doses.

The new phase of universalisation of COVID-19 vaccination commenced from June 21.

11% of total cases reported in persons aged below 20

Around 11% of the total COVID-19 cases in the country have been reported in persons aged less than 20, Pawar told the Lok Sabha on Friday.

The minister was responding to a question on the number of children up to 18 years of age who have contracted COVID-19 as of July 2021.

Giving details of COVID-19 vaccines for children which are in the pipeline/trial stage, Pawar, in a written reply, said the national regulator -- CDSCO -- has granted permission to conduct clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in children to Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad (in age group 2 to 18) for phase-II/III of Whole-Virion Inactivated SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine and to Cadila Healthcare Ltd, Ahmedabad (in age group 12 yrs and above) for phase-III clinical trial of DNA-based vaccine.

The outcome of these trials will depend on data emerging from the trial for the purpose of its approval and availability in the country, the minister said.

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