The cut-off date for import of Covid-related supplies from China -- which had ended on March 31 – has been extended, the finance ministry has said. Sources told NDTV that the Centre is now allowing global tenders for all Covid-related medical supplies and vaccine in the backdrop of a number of states planning to float global tender for vaccines. There is no limit on procurements and deals worth even less than even less than 200 crore has been allowed.
The relations between India and China have been frosty since April last year, when the Chinese troops transgressed the Line of Actual Control - the de-facto border - in Ladakh.
Since the Covid outbreak, India changed its rules on land border agreement -- which made a series of clearances necessary for nations that it shares border with - to exempt the flow of Covid-related medical supplies.
The two nations had since helped each other with medical equipment, but not vaccine.
The current vaccine rules allow emergency approval for --vaccines that have received similar approval in the US, UK, Europe and Japan. Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna were specifically invited to seek immediate approval for such use in India.
The rules were modified in April as the second wave of Covid ripped through the country. There has been no word for similar allowance for Chinese vaccines.
China has been upset over the US medical help to India. Following an alleged delay in sending US supplies, China's state-run media claimed India's closeness with the west was "fragile and superficial".
Pfizer, the official said, refused to come to India because they wanted it at "35 dollars per shot and we couldn't pay so much for a government programme".
The company, he said, was asked to supply for the private sector, but they refused, the finance ministry sources added.
Sources said India is currently not procuring any vaccine from outside the country, but only sourcing from domestic manufacturers.
"We continue to procure them (vaccines) and supply it to CGHS, central institutes, hospitals and states under the 50:50 ratio as decided in the May 1 policy. This is being given free of cost to the 45-plus age group," an official said.
Asked why the country could not procure more vaccines initially, the official said there was "little or very poor off-take" in the beginning.
"Vaccines have a shelf life of approximately three months and there would have been wastage. It was only in April that we saw a huge demand, since there was a surge of cases etc," he added.