Indian expert group in talks
with Pfizer over COVID vaccine


NEW DELHI: An expert group of the Indian government is in talks with global pharma major Pfizer over COVID vaccine supply, said Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday.
Speaking at Lok Sabha, Union Health Minister said, “Prime Minister has said many times not to politicise vaccination programme. It is our aim to vaccinate every citizen above 18 years of age in the country. This is not the time to do politics. An expert group of the Indian government is still in talks with Pfizer over COVID vaccine supply.” The Health Ministry further informed the Parliament that Rs 9,725.15 crore have been spent so far on the COVID19 vaccination programme.
Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar, Minister of State, Health Ministry said, “A total of Rs 9,725.15 crore have been spent so far on the COVID-19 vaccination programme including procurement of vaccines and operational cost for vaccination. A total of 135 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be available between August 2021 to December 2021.”
Dr Pawar informed that advance payments have been made to domestic manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines so that no delay in procurement arises.
“There has been no delay in entering into purchase agreements with the domestic vaccine manufacturers. Advance payments have also been made to manufacturers for the supply orders placed with them,” added the union minister.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya with Prime Minister Narendera Modi

The government put up a strong defence of its handling of the Covid pandemic saying that despite hurdles, the country had tackled the crisis at home and also helped the world. Acknowledging the large number of fatalities, Mansukh Mandaviya, however, said the deaths must not be blamed on any one person.

“We have worked for all Indians to ensure that the pandemic is dealt with. We have done no politics in this,” Mr Mandaviya told the Council of States.

“When there’s need to work together and implementation has to be done by the states, at that time we never said ‘this state failed’ or ‘that state didn’t do this’. I don’t want to do politics, but many states have 10-15 lakh doses of vaccines with them. I have data,” he said.

He said India did not have a single laboratory to test Covid at the beginning of the pandemic. Neither did the country have the capacity to manufacture PPE kits. The necessary facilities were built up only subsequently, he said, justifying the months-long lockdown imposed on the country.

The minister also expressed pride in India’s service to the world at a time of such crisis.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya addressing the Parliamentary session.

“We built the infrastructure from scratch…Hence the complete lockdown was necessary. Without that the spread would be rampant at a time we were not prepared,” the minister said.

“Not only did we build the entire infrastructure, but when the world needed medicines like hydroxychloroquine, we sent it to over 123 countries. Even the President of the US acknowledged the help from India.”

There was no delay in setting up laboratories and manufacturing facilities or approving indigenous research towards a Covid vaccine, Mr Mandaviya said. He cited Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin as a product of such initiative.

“We accept there have been deaths due to Covid. The Prime Minister himself has said deaths must be recorded. There is absolutely no reason to hide this…But to blame all deaths on one person is not the right thing to do,” he said.

Abdullah Shahid

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affair of Maldives and President-Elect of the 76th UN General Assembly Abdullah Shahid on Friday commended India’s generosity for ensuring COVID-19 vaccine supply to 95 countries and providing essential medicines to 150 countries in the world.
Shahid was speaking at the 4th Sapru House Lecture on challenges faced by Maldives democracy. Abdullah also informed that the “world economy shrank by 4.3 per cent in 2020, while many countries fell into debt, global poverty has also increased significantly pushing almost 114 million people to lose their jobs.”
Meanwhile, Indian multilateralist Manjeev Puri said, “We are pleased to see a South-Asian chairing the UN General Assembly.”
Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) Director-General TCA Raghavan also expressed that “It is an honour for Indian Council of World Affairs to have Abdullah Shahid deliver Sapru House Lecture today.”
Shahid Abdullah was addressing the 38th Sapru House Lecture on the COVID pandemic and the need for reformed multilateralism. The Sapru House Lecture is the flagship public lecture series dedicated to the founders of ICWA. (ANI)