A day after he spoke on shortage of Covid-19 vaccines and called for more licences for vaccine production in the country, Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday sought to explain himself by saying that he was “unaware” that the government had begun efforts to ramp up vaccine production “before I had given suggestion yesterday”.
In three tweets, Gadkari said that he feels it was “important to put this on record”.
“I was unaware that his ministry has started these efforts before I had given suggestion yesterday,” Gadkari tweeted, referring to Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertiliser Mansukh Mandaviya, who was present at the virtual conference where Gadkari made the remarks.
On Wednesday, Gadkari tweeted: “Yesterday…I had made a suggestion to ramp up vaccine production. I was unaware that before my speech… Mansukh Mandaviya had explained government’s efforts to ramp up vaccine production. After conference, he also informed me that, the Government of India is already facilitating vaccine manufacturing by 12 different plants/companies and rapid ramp up of production is expected in near future as a result of these efforts.”
“I am glad and congratulate he [Mandaviya] and his team for this timely intervention in the right direction. I feel important to put this on record,” he tweeted.
After Gadkari’s comments on Tuesday, the Opposition seized the opportunity to take a dig at the government. “But is his Boss listening? This is what Dr. Manmohan Singh had suggested on April 18th,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted about Gadkari’s suggestion of raising vaccine production.
Separately, Mandaviya held a special media briefing on Wednesday to elaborate what his ministry had done about Covid-19 medicines. But he declined to discuss questions related to vaccine pricing and production.
During his presentation at Tuesday’s conference, Mandaviya had explained that vaccine production was being ramped up according to discussions held with companies in advance, and that scaling up was being done according to timelines set beforehand.
He said that additional stock of vaccines were expected to be added once Biological E, Zydus Cadila, Bharat Biotech (working on an intranasal vaccine) and Gennova Biopharma launched their shots between July and September this year. “This is working according to a timeline,” Mandaviya had said.
Speaking after Mandaviya at Tuesday’s conference, Gadkari had spelt out his ideas on how best to deal with the pandemic. Among the things he had suggested were bringing in more private players for production of vaccine as well as life-saving drugs for Covid-19 and “black fungus”. He had also suggested that there should be oxygen banks and that he would suggest to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that there should be better arrangements for cremation.
On Tuesday, Mandaviya had said that the government had left no stone unturned in ensuring that vaccine companies were supported in production of their vaccines. “Whoever wanted to manufacture in India, we had given them advance funding,” he said.
Mandaviya had said that the Serum Institute of India is expected to be able to make 11.5 crore doses of Covishield vaccine per month by July — up from 6.5 crore at present. Similarly, he said, the government expects 2.81 crore doses of Sputnik V vaccines to be imported by July, and additional capacity to be made available once local contract manufacturers begin production starting June.
As many as six companies are producing the Russian vaccine in India and are aiming for a capacity of 85 crore doses per year, he had said during the presentation.
Capacity for Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research, is expected to increase to 13.5 crore doses by November, now that additional manufacturers have been contracted, he said.
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