The Union government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court on vaccine availability shows that Bharat Biotech will have to significantly raise its game over the next six months if India is to achieve its aim of vaccinating all its adults by this December.
A rough estimate shows that the company will have to increase supplies by at least nine times its current level. India is banking on Bharat Biotech to supply a total of 48 crore doses of COVAXIN out of the 187 crore doses needed to vaccinate all 93-94 crore adults in the country. That will be nearly 26 percent of all jabs. However, so far COVAXIN accounts for only 12 percent of all the jabs given in the country as on date.
About 3.8 crore COVAXIN jabs have been administered as on date. An order of 8 crore jabs was placed by the Centre since January with Bharat Biotech for supply till July. Bharat Biotech on June 15 said it had supplied over four crore doses so far, with some doses in stock with states. Still, the company has only delivered half so far out of what it is to supply by end of July.
Further, Bharat Biotech has a much bigger order of 19 crore doses to be supplied from August, for which it has already been provided 30 percent advance money. Given the government has said in its affidavit in Supreme Court that it is expecting 40 crore doses of COVAXIN between August and December, another order of 21 crore doses of COVAXIN could be placed later this year.
The big question is can Bharat Biotech increase its supply drastically by nearly nine times its present level to supply nearly 44 crore doses between July and December, when it has struggled to supply four crore doses over last five months. Bharat Biotech has promised so, citing higher production capacity of its various units starting July but its record so far hardly inspires confidence.
In fact in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, the government said Bharat Biotech had only supplied 2.29 crore doses as on June 12 out of orders of 8 crore doses that it is to supply to the government by end of July. The government also said in the affidavit that as on June 12, no supplies had come from Bharat Biotech against the order of five crore vaccine doses placed with it on May 5.
But given 3.8 crore doses of COVAXIN have been administered so far as per CoWIN portal, either more supplies from Bharat Biotech have come since in the last 15 days or the differential (between 3.8 crore and 2.29 crore doses) is on account of the number of doses that Bharat Biotech provided to states directly for the 18-44 age group while the decentralised vaccine policy was there between May 1 and June 21.Bharat Biotech in a statement in May had said the timeline for manufacturing, testing and release for a batch of COVAXIN was approximately 120 days, and thus the production batches that were initiated during March will be ready for supply only during June.