Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, will spend close to $1.36 billion to buy COVID-19 shots for the vaccination drive. This move by UP comes after many Indian states have stopped the vaccination drive due to shortage amid a record surge in coronavirus infections, with the country recording more than 4,000 deaths for the second time in a row.
In addition to this, UP has also held pre-bid talks with Indian vaccine companies like the Serum Institute of India (SII)- which is licensed to make the AstraZeneca and Novavax shots. State spokesman Navneet Sehgal also said that Johnson & Johnson could also confirm their participation in the tender by Thursday via an email.
"Money is not an issue, we have a huge budget," said Sehgal, a senior bureaucrat in the state of 240 million people, as reported by Thomson Reuters. "We will spend up to 100 billion rupees ($1.36 billion)." He also added that funds from other areas would be diverted to buy the vaccines. In addition to this, UP has also separately ordered 10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened up the vaccinations for all adults from May 1, doubling the number of people eligible to an estimated 800 million. Nevertheless, the domestic production of the vaccine will stay close to 80 million until July. As of now, several states have now planned to launch supply tenders individually.
India has administered 179 million doses, the most after China and the United States, but has given the required doses to only 3% of its 1.35 billion population. A top governmental official, Vinod Kumar Paul said that the vaccine supplies would increase from August. In addition to this, 2 billion locally-made vaccine doses would be available between August and December.