Exclusive – Indian Federal Government Won’t Import Vaccines, Leaving It To States – Sources
Enter Wall Street with StreetInsider Premium. Claim your 1-week free trial here.
By Aftab Ahmed and Neha Arora
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Indian government has decided to leave the importation of COVID-19 vaccines to state authorities and companies, two government officials told Reuters, a move that could slow acquisitions of gunfire as ‘a second wave of the pandemic is tearing the country apart.
They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government would instead aim to support domestic vaccine makers by guaranteeing their purchases. The government this month paid Indian producers in advance, for the first time, for doses of the vaccine.
Under fire for his uneven handling of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, Modi has opened vaccinations for all adults starting next month, but stocks are already depleted.
After cases started to skyrocket this month, Modi’s government urged Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to seek permission to sell their injections in India, and he relaxed the rules for them.
But sources said New Delhi is now leaving Indian states and companies to sign deals with foreign drug makers while buying half of the output from Indian producers – the Serum Institute, which now makes the Anglo vaccine. -British AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer. of local fire.
The number of new coronavirus cases in India hit a record daily high for a fifth day on Monday as countries such as Britain, Germany and the United States pledged to send urgent medical aid to help to fight against the crisis which overwhelms its hospitals. ”
“The situation is desperate,” one of the government officials told Reuters. He added that India would allow the importation of vaccines by local partners of pharmaceutical companies but that the federal government “will not buy”.
The second government official said: “I don’t think the government will buy foreign vaccines.”
Both officials have direct knowledge of the matter but declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The departments of External Affairs, Health and Trade did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The worst-affected state, Maharashtra, has announced that it will launch a global tender for the importation of vaccines. It is the richest state in India, but many poor countries are at risk of falling behind without the financial support of the federal government to purchase doses abroad.
Health economist Rijo M John, visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Kozhikode City, criticized the Modi government’s approach to vaccine supply.
“Vaccines must be purchased, imported by the center and given free to the population,” he told Reuters.
“If left to states, some of them may not be able to afford it and will therefore have to charge (the cost of vaccines) to the population, many of whom could not afford it.”
Pfizer said it was in talks with Modi’s government about providing vaccines. J&J has applied for permission to conduct a small local trial, but has no plans to sell its vaccine in India yet. Moderna did not comment.
India has administered nearly 140 million doses to its frontline workers and those over the age of 45. About 118 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which is only about one-tenth of the population of 1.35 billion.
(Reporting by Aftab Ahmed and Neha Arora with additional reporting by Rupam Jain edited by Krishna N. Das and Mark Heinrich)