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Fact-check: Has govt of India not placed any new orders for coronavirus vaccines since March 2021? Here are the facts

Detailed account of advance given for vaccines for both, COVISHIELD as well as COVAXIN and the number of doses received was put forth by the government of India.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today dismissed media reports alleging the Centre placed no new orders for Covid-19 vaccines since March as bogus and incorrect.

Several media houses such as the Business Standard and the Forbes published reports claiming that the Centre has not placed any fresh order for COVID-19 vaccines either with Serum Institute of India or with Bharat Biotech. The reports claimed that the last order placed with the two vaccine makers (100 million doses with SII and 20 million doses with Bharat Biotech) was in March 2021.

Business Standard’s report on ‘no new orders for Covid-19 vaccines placed by the Centre’

Calling these reports devoid of facts, the Ministry issued a press release which provides an in-detail account of the new orders of Covid-19 vaccine doses placed and received from the vaccine manufacturers- Serum Institute of India and Bharat BioTech respectively.

Government data on order for vaccine doses placed

The Ministry informed that 100% advance of Rs. 1732.50 cr was released to Serum Institute of India on April 28 for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine during May, June and July. As on date, against the last order of 10 crore doses for supplies of Covishield vaccine, 8.744 crore doses have been delivered till May 03.

Additionally, 100% advance of Rs. 787.50 cr was released on the same date to Bharat Biotech India Ltd for 05 crore Covaxin doses during May, June and July. As on date against the last order of 02 crore doses for supplies of Covaxin vaccine, around 83 lakh doses have been delivered by the manufacturer.

This diffuses the claims of no fresh order of vaccine doses placed by the Government of India.

Government data on vaccine doses made available to states/ UTs

Elaborating on the vaccine doses made available to states and UTs, the response revealed that as of May 02, the Government of India has provided more than 16.54 crore vaccine doses to States/UTs for free of cost. Around 78 lakh doses are still available with the States/UTs to be administered while more than 56 Lakh doses, in addition, will be received by the States/UTs in the next 3 days, said the press release.

The reports were allegedly based on the inferences drawn from SII CEO Adar Poonawalla’s interview to The Financial Times. Poonawalla, on being asked why the manufacturing capacity was not expanded, said that he received no additional orders from the government and that his company did not think it needed to make more than 1 billion doses a year.

SII’s response

Shortly after the government issued a response, the Serum Institute of India released a Tweet endorsing the government’s response. The tweet read, “We endorse this statement, & the authenticity of the information. We have been working closely with the Government of India for the past year & thank it for its support. We remain committed to ramping up our vaccine production to save every life we can.”

Further, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla also took to Twitter to refute the claims.

In a statement, Poonawalla said that his comments were misinterpreted. He said that vaccine manufacturing is a specialised process and hence it cannot be ramped up overnight. India’s population is huge and hence will require a great number of doses to inoculate so many citizens. He added that the company has been working closely with Government of India since April 2020 and has been given every kind of support to speed up the process.

He added that as of today, SII has received order of 26 crore doses of which over 15 crore doses have been supplied. He also said that SII is working hard to ensure the vaccines are made available in quickest time possible.

India is currently running the largest vaccination drive with over 156 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered already.

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