Demanding that the Central government procure vaccines for all citizens, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said asking states to compete with each other in the global market for vaccines was the worst thing to do in times like these.
Sisodia, who is also the nodal officer for Covid management in the national capital, told The Indian Express, “Covid is a national disaster and the Centre should take responsibility in these situations.”
According to him, a state-wise global tender is the worst thing to do at a time like this. “…but since the Government of India is not doing it, states can’t sit idle. Which is why, we are also preparing a tender and knocking on doors.”
“Imagine if tomorrow states tell all districts to make their own arrangements? What will the point of a state government in that situation be? Think of America – would Texas, Nevada or Florida be competing for vaccines in the global market or will it be the country? Let’s say there is a Pfizer dealer who is ready to sell, we will say that we want to buy it for Rs 100, the other will quote Rs 110 then I will say Rs 120. States will be busy outbidding each other. Where is the country in this?” Sisodia pointed out.
Delhi, along with others such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, has said it will float global tenders to fulfil its vaccine requirements. The state government plans to procure 1 crore vaccine doses under a global tender but is also open to making a deal with manufacturers at its own level.
“While we are preparing a global tender, even if we are getting stock without that, we are ready to pick it up after talks with manufacturers. This is an emergency and wherever we get an opening, we will pick it up. We are looking for around 1 crore doses. We are hoping that we will get more doses from the two manufacturers in India soon as well and this should meet our demand. We also want to vaccinate children at the earliest, because till we do that, we will not be safe. The FDA recently approved the use of Pfizer vaccine in children over the age of 12. I spoke to people in Russia and children there have been vaccinated too. This, of course, will be subject to approvals from the Government of India and scientists,” Sisodia said.
The Delhi government had written to Serum institute of India and Bharat Biotech in April, expressing interest in buying 67 lakh does from each for the 18-44 age group. So far, it has got 6.67 lakh doses of Covishield and 1.5 lakh of Covaxin for the category. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had earlier written to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, stating they needed 85 lakh vaccines each month for the next three months if it was to vaccinate all people within this time frame.
So far, the Centre has not shown seriousness in terms of its vaccination strategy, Sisodia said. “Even when it came to exporting 6.5 crore vaccines, vision was clearly lacking. Let’s say a person has been vaccinated, but their colleagues have not and it remains so far 3-4 months. The vulnerability of the vaccinated person is still high and chances of mutation also increase. A lot of western countries have managed to vaccinate around 50 per cent of their population. If we have to break the chain, we have to run as well. The Covid vaccination programme is not something that can be completed within 1-2 years and it is not like it will not make a difference if people are left out. If people are left out of the chain, it will make a difference,” he said.
Sisodia also said Delhi was looking at all vaccine manufacturers as suppliers at present.
“If certain vaccines have special demands, those will be considered as well. If it is the only option available, we will have to do it. If there is an element of temperature control for storing Pfizer vaccines, then technology exists for that too. It is better to build optimal storages for vaccines than for someone to need a ventilator after getting Covid. At present, though, there is no concrete discussion with a manufacturer as things are developing at a very fast pace… We are knocking on doors,” he said.