In a relief of sorts, from May 5, India has apparently halted the contentious doles and exports of vaccines which have erupted into a massive political furore across the country, as per an RTI reply released here on Monday.
In a response to the RTI query filed by Pune-based activist Prafful Sarda, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has provided details of the vaccines exported in different categories to 95 countries till May 5.
To a question, the MEA has also made it clear that in future, supplies (export) would be undertaken, "keeping in view the domestic production and the requirements of the national vaccination programme".
The IANS had first reported the vaccines exports details on April 27, (Centre's Covid jab for world spells 'ouch' in India!), triggering a massive political furore.
All major parties in the country including Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena, Aam Aadmi Party, the Left and other opposition parties had repeatedly slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government on the issue.
"However, barring the basic export data, the government has kept mum on much other related info but critical aspects pertaining to the exports of such a huge quantity of doses which deprived Indians in a big way," Sarda told IANS.
For instance, the Centre has said it has no record or documents if any committee was formed by the government to decide on the vaccines export, its members, the details and minutes of the meetings if any of such a committee.
"This is quite mysterious. Which ministry has actually taken the decision for the massive donations or exports especially since at least two key ministries – Health and MEA – could be directly involved in the process," Sarda pointed out.
Export of COVID vaccines
The RTI reply has mentioned in passing that the vaccines were procured for export purposes – as Grant, contractual supplies and under the Covax facility – as per the authorization from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
However, it throws no light on who took such a critical decision when the country is reeling under the massive second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Sarda.
As per the official data, the Centre has given away a whopping 107.15 lakh vaccines free as 'Grant' to 47 countries, sold 357.92 lakh doses at commercial rates to 26 nations, and under the Covax programme sold 198.63 lakh vaccines to another 47 countries – totalling to a staggering 663.70 lakh doses.
Till May 31 (today), India has vaccinated a total of 21,31,54,129 people under various approved categories, including those who got their second dose.
"This proves that the government has virtually sent away more than 6.60 crore doses abroad that could have, for instance, vaccinated by now the entire adult population of Maharashtra - which is the country's worst-hit in terms of infections and fatalities," Sarda said.
For the 'Grant', the government had purchased the vaccines from Pune-based Serum Institute of India Ltd (SII) at Rs 200+GST per dose, and from Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd at Rs 295+GST per vaccine, said the RTI reply.