GAVI to provide 1.65-cr polio shots to India

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on July 09, 2019 Published on July 09, 2019

The government has wriggled out of the polio vaccine (IPV) shortage crisis, with global non-profit GAVI coming to its rescue. A steep hike in the price of the vaccine had left the authorities in a fix earlier this year.

With GAVI agreeing to provide up to 1.65 crore doses to the government, the situation has improved, the Union Health Ministry told BusinessLine in a response.

IPV is an injectible vaccine which is given to a child along with the oral polio vaccine (OPV) for additional immunity. The government was unable to meet the high cost of IPV at ₹91.3 per dose. “Children can be given five doses of OPV or a combination of three doses of OPV with two doses of IPV during their lifetime,” said KP Sanghavi, a neonatologist.

Until earlier this year, the government was trying to convince suppliers to bring down the price, but in vain.

“The Government of India approached GAVI for IPV support and GAVI has agreed for the same. GAVI is providing IPV to the tune of 1.65 crore doses,” said a senior official from the Ministry.

Earlier, the government had denied reports of budgetary constraints due to higher vaccine prices.

“Since we are availing GAVI support, there is no need for any additional budgetary support on account of possible higher prices,” the official added.

Oral vaccine requirement

After reports of vaccine shortage surfaced in January this year, the Ministry had stated that the National Immunisation Day, which had been delayed due to stricter contamination checks on vaccine batches, would be held soon.

The first campaign was held on March 10, while a Sub-National Polio Immunisation Day was held on June 16, the Ministry said.

“During these national polio rounds, only bivalent OPVs were used,” said the Ministry in response to a query from BusinessLine.

The Ministry also faced a crisis on the bivalent OPV front.

Of the initially three suppliers – Bio-Med, Panacea Biotech and Bharat Biotech — the Ministry is left with only two now (Panacea and Bharat Biotech).

The government has launched litigation against Bio-Med after discovery of contamination in the manufacturing chain of OPVs.

“Only two weeks ago, Bharat Biotech supplied a large chunk of the government’s requirement,” a senior official of the company told BusinessLine.

The Health Ministry confirmed that in 2019-20, it received 9.22 crore doses of OPV from Bharat Biotech.

“We had to divert our supplies from elsewhere, with supplies to UNICEF being put on hold, to cater to government needs,” the company official said.

Published on July 09, 2019

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