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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

UP talks to Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson; waits for Centre’s word on China

A reading of the tender’s terms, from cold-storage needs to country requirements, shows that China’s Sinopharm is eligible for application but the state government has said it will await word from the Centre on that.

Written by Liz Mathew , Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: May 16, 2021 6:14:09 am
A supply of Pfizer's vaccine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen at Dekalb Pediatric Center. (Reuters)

The Centre said that Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna could open discussions on their vaccine supplies only in the third quarter of 2021 even as two of these pharma firms have participated in the pre-bid meeting held Wednesday in connection with the global vaccine tender for 40 million doses floated by Uttar Pradesh.
“We had a pre-bid meeting for the global firms Wednesday and everyone, allowed by the Government of India, has participated in it. Among the firms waiting for clearance, both Pfizer and J & J also were there,” Sidharth Nath Singh, Minister in UP government, told The Indian Express.
The pre-bid meeting was also attended by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Zydus Cadila, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech. Singh said the government is expected to float the global tender within a month.

A reading of the tender’s terms, from cold-storage needs to country requirements, shows that China’s Sinopharm is eligible for application but the state government has said it will await word from the Centre on that.

For example, the tender, floated by Uttar Pradesh Medical Supplies Corporation Limited, mandates that storage at 2-8 degrees Celsius, in line with the cold storage of India’s immunization programme. And those bidders requiring “special cold storage condition” should either have their own cold chain transporting system or should have a “proper contract” with an agent.

This effectively means that Moderna and Pfizer that require ultra-cold storage temperature will have to arrange for their own cold-chain logistics.

Incidentally, Sinopharm, manufactured by Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co., Ltd, needs a storage temperature of 2-8 degrees. On May 7, WHO listed Sinopharm for emergency use, giving the green light for this vaccine to be rolled out globally.

On April 15, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) had said it would consider applications for emergency use and decide in three days any applicant approved by USFDA, EMA (Europe), UK, PMDA, Japan or listed in WHO’s emergency use listing (EUL).

Asked if the UP government is open to purchasing from China, Minister Sidharth said: “We will follow the Government of India’s rules and instructions.”

“Any vaccine, be it Chinese, or otherwise, will only come in if the Centre approves that vaccine. States will not be able to purchase or use any vaccine which the Government of India doesn’t approve. Because it is risky,”said a top official closely involved in the state’s Covid management.

“We don’t have any issue in procuring from anywhere. We just want the vaccine to protect our people. But this (getting from China) is a political decision and the Centre will take it, we shall follow whatever call is taken,” said a top official closely involved in the state’s Covid management.

Singh added that the state government has sought help from the Ministry of External Affairs to expedite the process. “The government has written to the embassies and high commissions of all the countries that manufacture vaccines. Our aim is to get the vaccines in time and inoculate our people,” he said.

Singh added that the state has given orders for 50 lakh each for Covishield and Covaxin of which 25 lakh each will arrive next week. “This will make our vaccination program for 18-44 up and going,” he said.

On May 12, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued a global Expression of Interest (EoI) for procurement of 1 crore doses of vaccines for Mumbai with a condition that bids from firms in countries that share land borders with India will not be considered, which effectively bars any company from China.

“We are not aware of the Central government’s current policy. But we have decided to put in this condition to ban Chinese firms from participating…There is a question on the quality aspects and other specifics of the Chinese vaccines. We are not accepting that (WHO approval),” P Velrasu, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects), told The Indian Express.

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