Covaxin contract was signed after lab warned it would not meet deadline

Covaxin contract deadline
Healthcare worker vaccinating people in New Delhi with the Covaxin immunizer. Photo: Talukdar David/Shutterstock

Emails apprehended by Senate’s Covid inquiry at Precisa Medicamentos headquarters showed that the company — which is at the center of the Covaxin scandal — knew Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech would not be able to meet the established vaccine delivery schedule even before signing a sale agreement with the Brazilian government at the beginning of this year.

According to the emails, obtained by newspaper O Globo, the Brazilian company’s technical director Emanuela Medrades sent an email on February 4 to the Indian laboratory, predicting the delivery of 20 million doses of the vaccine within up to 90 days after signing the contract. To that email, Apoorv Kumar, one of the Indian company’s employees, replied that they would be open to increasing the number of jabs from 12 to 20 million, but that the delivery schedule requested was “not feasible.” The employee also asked to delay delivery by “a few months.”

On February 9, Bharat Biotech wrote that if deliveries began in April, the 20 million doses could be shipped in eight to 10 months, an average of 2.5 million doses per month. 

However, on February 25, the contract between Precisa Medicamentos and Brazil’s government was signed with a much faster delivery schedule. The new deadline would demand 20 million doses be shipped in just 70 days after signing the contract, split into five batches of 4 million doses.

Even after the contract was signed, the Covaxin producer continued to stress it would not be able to meet the timetable. “The proposal indicates a delivery schedule that is not in line with our commitment to Brazil’s government. If you could clarify, we would appreciate it,” Mr. Kumar wrote to Ms. Medrades on February 26.

So far, Precisa Medicamentos has not commented on the matter.