Maharashtra govt may stop global vaccine procurement

With the Centre asking states to buy their own stock to immunise the 18-44 age group, Maharashtra floated a global EOI on May 17 for 5 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The Maharashtra government may take a call to stop further engagement in global vaccine procurement, with the eight companies that responded to an expression of interest (EOI) unable to provide a manufacturer’s authorisation.

With the Centre asking states to buy their own stock to immunise the 18-44 age group, Maharashtra floated a global EOI on May 17 for 5 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses. It has received responses from eight companies based in India, USA, UAE, Switzerland, Australia and Mexico to provide Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Jonhson and Johnson and Moderna vaccine.

“We asked all companies to provide a vaccine manufacturer’s authorisation letter confirming there is a tie-up between them and the manufacturer. Apart from this we requested for GMP certification based on WHO certification scheme, schedule for delivery, and a few other technical details. None of the companies could provide an authorisation letter till now,” a senior state health official said.

The official said a final decision on the global purchase order will be taken soon and is likely to be called off.

The companies have requested the Maharashtra government to provide a letter of intent to purchase vaccine stock. Officials said they cannot provide an LoI until they receive assurance from manufacturers about official tie-ups with distributors or commission agents.

The companies that responded to EOI work on commission basis, in import/export trade and as consultants.

Pfizer and J&J have clarified they do not have a tie up with any distributor, while Russian Development Investment Fund responded that it did not have tie-up with any distributor to supply in India except for Dr Reddy’s.

“Manufacturers are not dealing with the state government directly. These companies are not providing required documents. That forces us to opt out of import option,” a senior official said.

For June, the Centre has assured 10 lakh Covaxin doses and 62.87 lakh Covishield doses, of which 17.72 lakh Covishield doses will be distributed in the first fortnight, to Maharashtra. In addition, the state government expects direct purchase of 24.15 lakh Covishield doses from Serum Institute of India and 4.74 lakh from Bharat Biotech under state quota. With this, the Maharashtra government will be able to immunise 1.01 crore people in June for free, in addition to immunisation undertaken by private sector. In May, Maharashtra immunised 66.87 lakh people.

A senior Maharashtra official said they will write to Union health ministry to procure at central level and distribute vaccines to all states. “We expect central government to take a call on this soon,” the official said.

On Monday the Supreme Court asked the Centre to modify its vaccine policy within two weeks and ensure there is no disparity in pricing and distribution.

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