Some private hospitals in India have cancelled orders for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as they struggle to sell COVID-19 shots in the face of government-supplied free doses of other vaccines.
According to some industry officials, low demand and the extremely cold storage temperatures required have caused at least three large hospitals to cancel orders for Sputnik V, which is only available on the private market in the world’s largest vaccine producer.
“With storage and everything, we have cancelled our order for 2,500 doses,” said Jitendra Oswal, a senior medical official at Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College and Hospital in the western city of Pune.
“Demand is also not great. There is a class of people, barely one percent, that wanted to go for Sputnik. For the rest, anything would do.”
From May until last week, private hospitals doled out just about six percent of all vaccines administered in India, although the government had freed them to buy up to a quarter of domestic output, health ministry data show.
India is a major production centre of Sputnik V, with planned capacity of about 850 million shots a year, and low domestic uptake could mean higher exports instead, a step backers are already pushing for.
The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since a June launch event by Indian distributor Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd only 943,000 doses of Sputnik V have been administered by hospitals, a fraction of the national total of more than 876 million.