Updated: March 24, 2021 1:42:44 am
The supply of Covid-19 vaccines from Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech could increase by July-August, according to Professor V K Paul, member (health) NITI Aayog. “The SII manufactures 60 million doses per month and can be in a position to supply 470 million doses by August,” Paul said on Tuesday.
Across the country, the cumulative Covid-19 vaccine doses are nearing 5 crore and more than 2 crore beneficiaries are aged over 60 years, according to data from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Responding to a query on the 90 per cent use of Covishield vis a vis Covaxin, Paul said this disparity pertained mainly to a supply issue. “Covaxin hesitancy has melted to a large extent and has fewer side effects,” he said.
“We know that both SII and Bharat Biotech have a finite capacity and both are trying to increase production. There has to be a systematic increase in vaccinations and Bharat Biotech should also be able to supply 120-130 million doses of Covaxin by August,” he said.
Paul was addressing queries on the Covid-19 vaccination programme, hesitancy, production capacity at manufacturing firms and whether India was meeting targets, at the online annual conference of the Sun Pharma Science Foundation on Covid-19 in India. The conference was coordinated by Prof Shahid Jameel, director, Trivedi School of Biosciences, Ashoka University, Sonepat, Haryana.
“In a single day (March 22), we were able to vaccinate three million people. We are on track,” Paul said. It has been nine weeks since the vaccination programme began and in the first phase, the aim is to cover the vulnerable population, Paul said, responding to a query on whether India is woefully short of adhering to vaccination targets.
But he raised concerns over vaccine hesitancy among senior citizens. “There was an eagerness earlier but there are some reports about vaccine hesitancy in this group. More vaccines will be rolled out by June-July and the pace is picking up. We need to wait and watch and yes, we will deliver,” Paul said.
Dr Ravi Wankhedkar, former national president of the Indian Medical Association, has urged the central government to rework the vaccination strategy and encourage vaccination on demand for eligible people, high risk people, frontline workers in all fields and those interacting with large numbers every day who are exposed to risk of infection. “Allow companies, organisations and firms to vaccinate their workforce,” Wankhedkar told The Indian Express. “Seven per cent of districts in the country have nearly 60 per cent cases and so, a massive vaccination drive should be undertaken in mission mode,” he said.
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