As the last date for submitting an expression of interest (EOI) by vaccine manufacturers close today, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is left empty-handed. On May 12, it had floated a global tender for vaccines and became the first municipal corporation in the country to do so. However, it has not received even a single bid from any vaccine manufacturers.
The global tender, barring Chinese vaccines, was floated for a whopping 1 crore Coronavirus vaccine doses on May 12. However, the BMC had imposed strict conditions for the procurement of the vaccines. One of the conditions was that the bidding vaccine manufacturer must deliver the doses within 3 weeks from the date of the issue of a work order.
Such a short time span for the delivery of 1 crore vaccine doses was unfeasible for vaccine manufacturers. It must be mentioned that most global companies are struggling to meet the growing demand for vaccines and are running behind on existing orders. Even though the BMC had kept its tender open for foreign vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, all such companies need mandatory clearance from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).
The civic body had also put forth the condition to vaccine manufacturers that they will have to arrange for storage facilities in case those facilities aren’t available with the BMC. Such stringent conditions, coupled with pending approval, lack of flexibility, and a small window for delivery, meant that all vaccine manufacturers remained disinterested in the proposal.
It is notable here that vaccines for Pfizer and Moderna need ultra-low temperature storage facilities to remain viable. While the vaccines currently used in India, SII’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin can be stored in regular and existing facilities, the storage, transport and distribution of most foreign vaccines will need expensive set up currently non-existent in our healthcare logistics systems.
Penalty for delay
The BMC tender had conditions that there will be no advanced payments to the companies, and they will be fined if there is a delay in delivery of vaccines.
They’ve to install their cold storage if needed. Efficacy of the vaccines should not be lower than 60% is also under our tender’s terms & conditions. We’ll not give any advance payment. We will fine companies if they fail to deliver vaccines on time: Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar— ANI (@ANI) May 13, 2021
Many experts have stated that the BMC’s tender was unrealistic as there is a global demand against a limited supply of vaccines currently. All vaccine companies have multiple governments requesting billions of doses. Amid this, a city municipal authority pretending that vaccine manufacturers will line up with ready doses to sell at their doorstep was a flawed notion to begin with. The lack of any potential bidders for the vaccine tender by BMC has just proven so.
BMC to extend the deadline for bidding by vaccine manufacturers
Faced with embarrassment, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is now mulling to extend the deadline for submitting an expression of interest. Additional Municipal Commissioner P Velarasu, who has been tasked with vaccine procurement, has remarked, “If we do not receive any response by the deadline, we might give an extension. Until now, we have not received any bids.”
Amidst a shortage of Coronavirus vaccines in the State, this comes as a major setback. The Maharashtra government has thus deferred the third phase of vaccination, which was meant to kickstart from May 1.
Vaccine manufacturers around the world have no dearth of demand, often with simple or no conditions. Owing to BMC’s red-tapping strategy, it is now left with no bidders. However, this has not stopped Indian liberals from blaming the Union government for states not being able to procure Coronavirus vaccines. It must be mentioned that the Central government had allowed the States to procure vaccines directly from the manufacturers after repeated demands from several state governments, including Maharashtra.