With the demand for vaccines increasing, the Centre Friday announced a plan to double by May-June the Covaxin production capacity of Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, including a grant of Rs 65 crore for building a new production facility in Bengaluru.
On Friday, as the country registered a record 2,17,353 new cases and 1,185 deaths, several states reported shortage of oxygen supply due to the surge.
Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meeting on the current situation of oxygen supply and projected use over the next 15 days in 12 high-incidence states — Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
The Prime Minister was informed that 4,880 metric tonne (MT), 5,619 MT, and 6,593 MT have been allocated to these 12 states to meet their projected demand as on April 20, April 25 and April 30; and of the decision Thursday to import medical-grade oxygen.
The Prime Minister directed the authorities to ensure seamless and free movement of tankers carrying oxygen throughout the country.
After the meeting, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla issued specific directions to Chief Secretaries of the states: ensure that no restrictions are imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the states, that transport authorities be instructed to allow free inter-state movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles; no restrictions be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit oxygen supplies only to hospitals of the state in which they are located; free movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles into cities, without any restriction of timing.
On ramping up the ICMR- Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin vaccine production capacity, the Centre said three public sectors companies will be provided financial support to increase capacity.
First, Maharashtra state PSU Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation Ltd will receive a Central grant of Rs 65 crore; the PSU has been asked to ready its manufacturing facility within 6 months and, once functional, will have a capacity of 20 million doses per month.
“Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL), Hyderabad, a facility under National Dairy Development Board, and Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Limited (BIBCOL), Bulandshahr, a CPSE under the Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India will also be supported to prepare their facility to provide 10-15 million doses per month by Aug-Sep 2021,” an official statement said.
“The current production capacity of indigenously developed Covaxin vaccine will be doubled by May-June 2021 and then increased nearly 6-7 fold by July-August 2021 i.e increasing the production from 1 crore vaccine doses in April, 2021 to 6-7 crore vaccine dose/month in July – August. It is expected to reach nearly 10 crore doses per month by Sep 2021,” the statement said.
Also Friday, Home Secretary Bhalla and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired high-level meetings to review the status in two states of concern — Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh.
During the meeting, shortage of hospital infrastructure being reported in both states, including ICU and oxygen-supported hospitals beds, resulting in difficulty to the public in easily accessing critical healthcare services, were discussed in detail.
The meeting was informed that Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are the only three states which have more than one lakh active cases.
“Both Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh are reporting a very high number of daily new Covid-19 cases and high deaths caused by Covid-19. Chhattisgarh has reported a nearly 6.2% increase in weekly new Covid cases based on a 7-day moving average. In the last two weeks, the state has seen almost 131% increase in weekly new cases. 22 districts in Chhattisgarh have crossed their reported highest cases in the last 30 days; Raipur, Durg, Rajnandgaon and Bilaspur are the most affected districts. In contrast to the week 17th-23rd March 2021, in the week of 7th-13th April 2021, RT-PCR tests have decreased to 28% (from 34%) while the Antigen Tests have increased to 62% (from 53%),” a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
About UP, the statement said “Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi and Prayagraj are the most affected districts. In contrast to the week 17th-23rd March 2021, in the week of 7th-13th April 2021, RT-PCR tests have decreased to 46% (from 48%) while Antigen tests have increased to 53% (from 51%).”
Bhushan informed the two states that the demand for oxygen cylinders, including 10-litre cylinders and 45-litre jumbo cylinders, and additional ventilators with high-flow nasal cannula for severe cases, “will be met very soon”. The two states were also directed to urgently make use of hospitals of Union Ministries and PSUs for treating Covid-19 patients.