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Vaccine availability to remain a challenge till July: KTR

Vaccine availability to remain a challenge till July: KTR

Supplies of Covid-19 vaccines will only start meeting demand across the country by late July or early August and till then, it is going to be a challenge, Telangana Industry and Information Technology Minister K.T. Rama Rao said on Thursday.

The minister, who heads the state task force on procurement of vaccines and medicines, said the state was working on getting increased supplies of vaccines from the Centre and was also simultaneously engaged in discussions with vaccine manufacturers.

"But the supplies will only start meeting demand across the country hopefully by late July or early August. Till then it's going to be a challenge," he said during a live interactive session with netizens on Twitter.

He quoted NITI Aayog's Health Member, V.K. Paul as saying that 216 crore doses will be available between August-December 2021, and vaccination drive will continue throughout the year in India.

KTR, as the minister is popularly known, said the state has the ability and infrastructure to vaccinate the entire state within 45 days but the problem is lack of availability of vaccine.

Responding to several questions about vaccination and vaccine availability, he tried to explain that the state has a limited role as the Centre is handling the distribution.

He said currently the state's focus on to get the second dose to all those 45 lakh people who have taken the first jab.

"You should know that Govt of India has mandated that 85 per cent of all production be handed over to it. From the remaining 15 per cent, all states & institutions have to compete. It's easier to procure for a few hundred employees but challenge is manifold when your state population is 3.6 crore," he said when a netizen asked if the state can procure vaccines like corporates are doing for their employees.

Telangana, which decided to float global tenders for procurement, is currently in discussions with all three vaccine makers; Bharat Biotech, the Serum Institute and Dr Reddy's Labs.

"Whatever is allowed by Drug Controller General of India is what we can procure. So far only three vaccines are available; Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik. Hopefully Pfizer & Moderna will be allowed. By August I am hearing that another Indian vaccine may also be available from BE," he said asked if the state considering procurement of vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech.

He pointed in Telangana out of the total 45 plus population of 92.24 lakhs, 45.37 lakh people have been vaccinated with first dose while second dose has been given to more than 10.3 lakh people

"I think we should set aside all inhibitions/egos and work together as humanity during this hour of crisis. Doesn't matter whether it's Sinovac or Pfizer or Moderna or something else, as long as it works and helps save lives," he said when asked about his opinion on India asking China for supplies of Sinovac.

"Vaccine regionalism is not allowed, brother. Just because someone is manufacturing in our state, we are not entitled to with first right of usage," KTR said in reply to a suggestion that since Covaxin is being manufactured in Telangana, the vaccines may be offered to other states after vaccination is completed in Telangana.

"A thought definitely worth considering," KTR remarked to a suggestion that the Central government should be urged to give the vaccine patent to all the pharmaceutical companies to meet country's requirements.

"This is a decision that has to be taken by Govt of India," he quipped when asked if Telangana government is coordinating with Bharat Biotech to share formula and increase production of vaccine with all other pharma companies.

To another query, KTR said vaccination of 70 per cent population is considered ideal to break the chain. "So out of the 2.9 crore adult population, we need to vaccinate 1.9 crore people. Since it's a 2 dose vaccine, we need 3.8 crore doses. It's a demand-supply challenge."

Asked about oxygen cylinders and Remdesivir being sold at extremely high prices, the minister said: "Challenge on oxygen is availability across the country. Govt of India has taken complete control over distribution by state. On Remdesivir, we are doing an audit by private hospital on consumption. Have found some cases of indiscriminate usage & we are also told doctors are under pressure from patients & their attendants to recommend Remdesivir even in those cases where it's not needed (anxiety for well being of their loved ones). We also made arrests of many persons who indulged in black marketing. Continue to audit & contain unnecessary hoarding."

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