States have repeatedly complained that attempts to procure vaccines directly have been largely futile

New Delhi:

Documents that show the Centre has fixed specific quotas for how much vaccine the Delhi government can directly purchase from manufacturers appear to contradict the liberalised vaccination policy that came into effect on May 1.

In the policy, announced on April 21, the Centre changed its existing guidelines; from being the sole procurer of vaccines, it allowed state governments and private hospitals to directly buy up to 50 per cent of the stock of vaccine makers Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.

Despite widespread criticism, the Centre defended the new policy, claiming it is in response to states demanding greater freedom in being able to access vaccines. But documents accessed by NDTV appear to be at odds with that claim.

In letters sent to the Delhi government by the Union Health Ministry on May 17, the Centre continues to closely ration the amount that the state can directly procure from vaccine makers.

NDTV reviewed two letters sent by Manohar Agnani, Additional Secretary, Union Health Ministry, to the Vikram Dev Dutt Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Delhi Government, for Covishield and for Covaxin.

In the letters, the Centre says 3 lakh doses of Covishield and 92,000 doses of Covaxin are available to the Delhi government for direct procurement for the month of June.

The letters also mention the number of doses that will be provided to Delhi under the Centre’s free supply scheme for vaccinating those above 45.

The letters only deepen the confusion around the liberalised policy, which has plunged the vaccine drive into further turmoil.

States have repeatedly complained that attempts to procure vaccines directly have been largely futile, with vaccine makers expressing inability to meet their orders.   

On April 26, Delhi announced that it had placed orders for 67 lakh doses of Covaxin and Covishield, but it has since been receiving only small quantities of the vaccines, forcing scale-backs or even the shutting of vaccination centres.

To the letter from Delhi Government, Bharat Biotech responded, “We are making dispatches as per the directives of the concerned government officials.”

The Centre’s rationing of direct procurement has also emerged in its affidavits in courts.  In an affidavit before the Kerala High Court on Monday, the Centre said.

“The doses available under direct procurement by state was worked out on a pro-rata basis on the state-wise population of 18-44 years of population group.”