Is there a Polio Vaccine Shortage? The Govt Issues a Denial

The polio vaccine in India’s immunisation programme is seeing a global shortage, thus, driving up the price.

3 min read
Hindi Female

A report that appeared in The Print, had claimed that the government had decided to postpone the campaign for the polio national immunisation day indefinitely.

The government has now issued a denial.

In a press release it stated,

There have been some reports in the media regarding shortage of polio vaccine in India. This is completely incorrect. There is no shortage of Oral Polio Vaccines (OPV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) in the country. As far as polio national immunization days (NID) is concerned, the required quantity of bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) has already been secured for the programme.

The note further said, “However, to ensure availability of safe and quality vaccine to our children during NID, the testing of bOPV is made more stringent and the same will be dispatched to states for public use after the clearance from national testing laboratory for each batch and Polio NID will be held soon.

Government has not postponed the NID indefinitely, as wrongly reported in the media. Regarding Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), there is neither shortage of IPV nor any shortage of funds for its procurement for Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) in the country.

“It is to be noted that India has eliminated polio already and as per global guidelines, introduced IPV in its Universal Immunization Program to safeguard the polio free status, as there are few countries where polio virus is still circulating and Polio is yet to be eliminated,” the note added.

Earlier in November it was reported that India was seeking monetary aid from an international donor to deal with the impending hike in the cost of an important vaccine.

The health ministry was hurriedly looking to avert a shortage of the polio vaccine (inactivated polio vaccine or IPV) as the price for the injection had gone up. This came after Sanofi, vaccine maker and the sole IPV supplier to India, decided to increase prices amid a global supply shortage of the vaccine.

IPV is part of India’s Universal Immunisation Programme. If the vaccine goes out of stock, it would mean that the government will be forced to temporarily stop immunising infants with IPV, which is critical to India maintaining its polio-free status.


The price for India, among other countries, is to increase from the current Rs 61 (0.75 euro) to Rs 147 (1.81 euros) per dose in 2019, and to Rs 177 (2.18 euros) per dose from 2020 through 2022, according to a UNICEF document.

Estimating the impact of the price hike, India would need an extra Rs 86 crore to meet the annual requirement. Going by the schedule of the immunisation programme, experts say the government needs at least 10 million doses every year to cover all children who receive the IPV.

The health ministry has approached Gavi – an international organisation that supports immunisation in poor countries – to intervene and help maintain IPV supplies to India by providing aid of Rs 100 crore.

The health ministry had introduced the IPV in 2015, relying on Gavi which disbursed USD 16.3 million (Rs 118.8 crore) for IPV immunisation in India during 2015 and 2016 with the expectation that India would then use its own funds, according to the Telegraph report.

Before that, the vaccine was available through private practitioners but at higher costs.

Critics argue that India is no longer a poor country, something that the government has itself said multiple times, and that it should be able to tend to its own healthcare costs and not be at the mercy of international donors.

Public health experts say the situation reflected India’s poor budget allocation for healthcare.

It’s not just the IPV, Gavi has also given India monetary aid of Rs 769 crore for pneumococcal immunisation between 2017 and 2019 and approved allocation of Rs 395 crore for rotavirus vaccines between 2018 and 2020.

The global shortage of IPV has raised concern. A May 2018 UNICEF document had said that sufficient supply to meet the needed two IPV doses was not likely to emerge before 2023.

This means India would need more funds to continue providing the vaccine to all the children in the country.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)


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Topics:  Immunisation   vaccination   Vaccine 

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