About 1.86 billion vaccine doses will be available for the national Covid-19 immunisation programme through the year -- 516 million of those till the end of July -- the Centre has submitted in an affidavit to the Supreme Court.
The number, though lower than the estimated 2.16 billion vaccine doses expected by December as publicly stated by the government earlier, should still be enough to inoculate all adults in the country by the end of the year.
The revised government estimates have reduced vaccine availability between August and December by 37.5% or 810 million doses, removing three vaccines from the initially projected list of eight coronavirus vaccines.
An estimated 500 million doses of Covishield, 400 million of Covaxin, 300 million of Biological E’s protein sub-unit vaccine, 50 million of Zydus Cadila’s DNA vaccine and 100 million of the Russia-made Sputnik V have been projected to be available for the government programme from August onwards.
According to the earlier projection that VK Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog, released on May 13 during a health ministry media briefing, production and availability of 2.16 billion doses between August and December included 750 million Covishield, 550 million Covaxin, 300 million Biological E, 50 million Zydus Cadila, 200 million Novavax (which Serum Institute of India is manufacturing locally as Covovax), 100 million Bharat Biotech’s nasal vaccine, 60 million Gennova’s mRNA vaccine, and 156 million Sputnik V doses.
The country has an estimated 930-940 million people in the category of 18 years and above who are eligible for vaccination under current norms. On June 7, the government revised its vaccination policy to include all adults for immunisation under the government programme.
“As such, administering two doses to these beneficiaries would require an estimated 186 to 188 crore vaccine doses… out of this requirement, 51.6 crore doses will be made available for administration by 31.07.2021 leaving a requirement of approximately 135 crore vaccine doses for complete vaccination to the eligible population,” said the affidavit.
“It is submitted that the Central Government has procured a total of 34.6 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine (Covishield: 26.6 crore doses, Covaxin: 8 crore doses) and - additional 1 crore doses as commodity assistance under COVAX facility… taking the total availability of vaccine doses to 35.6 crore doses as on date of filing this affidavit. Apart from these supplies, it is expected that around 16 crore doses will also be available during the period of May 2021 & July 2021 across the country,” the affidavit said.
Two vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — are currently part of the government’s vaccination programme since January 16, 2021. While Serum Institute of India locally manufactures the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine under the brand name Covishield, Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research co-developed Covaxin.
Another Covid-19 vaccine, the Russian-made Sputnik V, developed by Gamaleya Institute, also received the national drug regulator’s emergency use authorisation on April 13 and is now being administered at select private vaccination centres in the country.
The government is also expecting Covid vaccine doses soon from Biological E and Zydus Cadila that are in late stages of clinical trials.
Experts, however, said that the government should have pre-ordered doses.
“The government should have put in advanced purchase orders; what they did instead is purchase what the manufacturers had on their shelves. So the companies produced the doses at their own pace instead of the government dictating how many doses they need and by when,” said Dr Jacob John, former head of the department of virology, Christian Medical College-Vellore.
“My guess is after the second wave, herd immunity has been reached; whether we vaccinate or not, the number of cases will come down. Now, the vaccination drive needs to focus on people who are likely to die if they get the infection, something which we were doing in January and February when we should have been carrying out a large-scale vaccination campaign to prevent the second wave,” he added.