Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Tuesday said the state may receive its supply of 'Covishield' vaccine only after May 20.
Talking to reporters here, Tope said the availability of anti-COVID-19 vaccines is still a challenge and the state needs a week's quota delivered at one time in order to vaccinate maximum number of people.
"The Serum Institute of India (SII) has informed the state government that it can supply the 'Covishield' vaccine only after May 20," he said.
The Centre has relaxed its COVID-19 vaccination strategy in the third phase under which the country's large 18-plus population will get inoculated from May 1.
The Pune-based SII, the world's largest vaccine maker in terms of volume, has announced a price of Rs 400 per dose for its 'Covishield' vaccine for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has fixed the price of its vaccine, Covaxin, at Rs 600 per dose for state governments and at Rs 1,200 per dose for private hospitals.
Both the vaccines are available to the central government at a rate of Rs 150 per dose.
The Centre on Monday asked the two companies to lower the price of their COVID-19 vaccines, amid criticism from various states which accused the firms of profiteering during such a major crisis.
Tope said, "We are hopeful of the Centre's intervention in the matter of vaccine pricing. Hopefully, the prices will be reduced further."
He said Maharashtra alone needs 12 crore vaccine vials to inoculate the population of 5.71 crore in the age group of 18 to 44.
"The state government sent letters to the SII and Bharat Biotech two days ago, asking about the schedule of vaccine supplies in such large quantities, and is awaiting their reply," he said.
Tope said going by the current vaccine prices announced by these companies, the state will have to spend Rs 7,500 crore to inoculate 5.71 crore people.
In such a situation, the state will have to bear the cost of inoculating the economically weaker sections, he said.
"The state health department has prepared a note with various options for the immunisation drive, the costing and how to roll it out. The state cabinet will come up with policy after discussions," the minister said.
The state government is expected to hold the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.