Covaxin delivery starts, ‘full initial procurement allotted’

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THE first batch of Covaxin vaccine against Covid-19 was dispatched from Hyderabad by manufacturer Bharat Biotech Wednesday, flown to 11 cities across the country. Along with the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, which was shipped out Tuesday, Covaxin will be part of the government’s mass vaccination programme against Covid-19 starting Friday.

The first batch of Covaxin vials, each containing 20 doses, was sent by air “in the early hours of Wednesday” to Gannavaram (Andhra Pradesh), Guwahati, Patna, Delhi, Kurukshetra (Haryana), Bengaluru, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Chennai and Lucknow.

There was no official word on the total doses of Covaxin dispatched and received, though sources told The Indian Express the number was around 2.4 lakh doses. The SII, which continued to ship out Covishield on Wednesday, was said to have fulfilled “over 95 per cent” of its total order as on Wednesday morning.

The government had announced a purchase agreement for 55 lakh doses of Covaxin and 110 lakh doses of Covishield.

The government has so far not made public the break-up of the two vaccines to be sent to each state. However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare tweeted Wednesday evening that the full initial procurement of 1.65 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin “have been allocated to all States/UTs in proportion of (the) health care workers database.”

The first consignment of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech’s Hyderabad headquarters left for Delhi on an Air-India flight, in three boxes, followed by four boxes weighing 90.5 kg flown by Vistara to the national capital. Delhi International Airport Ltd said the boxes on the Air-India flight were for Kurukshetra, and Vistara’s for Delhi. IndiGo transported “sample shipments” to Pune, Vijayawada, Guwahati, Patna and Bhubaneswar, while SpiceJet’s freighter flight departed for Bengaluru with three boxes weighing 90 kg. Three more boxes will arrive in Delhi on Thursday for further transit to Lucknow.

Covishield was transported from Pune and Mumbai Wednesday, including a GoAir flight carrying 6.96 lakh doses from Mumbai to Goa, Lucknow, Kochi and Chandigarh. IndiGo transported around 3,000 kg of Covishield boxes from Mumbai to Raipur, Bhopal, Thiruvananthapuram, Indore, Imphal, Agartala and Udaipur; and SpiceJet two boxes to Bagdogra, 10 to Dehradun, seven to Srinagar, six each to Jammu and Kanpur, nine to Gorakhpur, 13 to Jabalpur, 14 to Ranchi and seven to Rajkot.

From Pune, SpiceJet carried 34 boxes of Covishield to Delhi, while Vistara flew 16 boxes weighing 512 kg of the vaccine from Mumbai to Varanasi. Of the boxes sent to Delhi, 12 were for Bareilly, 12 for Meerut and nine for Agra. On Thursday, three more boxes will arrive in Delhi for further transit to Dimapur (Nagaland).

As per the purchase agreement, the government will procure 55 lakh doses of Covaxin , of them 16.5 lakh for free. The remaining 38.5 lakh doses will be priced at Rs 295 a dose, excluding taxes. In case of Covishield, also a two-dose vaccine, the government has signed a deal for 110 lakh doses, at a price of Rs 200 a dose, excluding taxes.

The government plans to vaccinate around 30 crore people on priority in the first phase — starting with around one crore healthcare workers on January 16. The rollout will be “sequential” due to a “limited” availability of doses in the initial phase, and the procurement will be staggered, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has said. He has also suggested that the beneficiaries would not be able to choose the vaccine that they are given.

Covaxin has been approved in “clinical trial mode”, and those being vaccinated will be closely monitored.

The expert panel had recommended emergency approval for Covaxin saying it had “potential” to target mutant strains of the virus. While Bharat Biotech’s Chairman and Managing Director Dr Krishna Ella had said that Covaxin’s ability to protect against mutant strains was still a hypothesis, the firm is yet to share data it had promised to prove this.

Ready to spend on procurement: Tope

Mumbai: On Tuesday, when Maharashtra received its first tranche of 9.83 lakh vaccine doses, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said it will take a month to inoculate the state’s 7.86 lakh healthcare workers. The state plans to vaccinate 35,000 healthcare workers on January 16, the first day of the rollout. Tope said they are ready to spend on procurement of vaccines if the Centre stops supply after offering the initial batches. He denied claims that he believes the initial supply is insufficient. —ENS



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