Amid surging supplies of free doses of other vaccines offered by the government, some hospitals have cancelled orders for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine as they struggle to sell COVID-19 vaccine shots.
According to Reuters, some industry officials said low demand and the extremely cold storage temperatures required have spurred at least three big hospitals to cancel orders for Sputnik V, which is sold only on the private market in the world's biggest producer of vaccines.
Jitendra Oswal, a senior medical official at Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College and Hospital in the western city of Pune, said, "with storage and everything, we have cancelled our order for 2,500 doses."
"Demand is also not great. There is a class of people, barely 1%, that wanted to go for Sputnik. For the rest, anything would do," he added.
Sputnik V is just one of the vaccines suffering from a sharp fall in private sales. Pune's Bharati Hospital will end its COVID-19 vaccination programme when it runs out of AstraZeneca doses, as daily inoculations have fallen about 90% to 100, since private sales picked up in May and June, Oswal said.
Avis Hospitals, which runs eight vaccination centres in the southern city of Hyderabad, has also cancelled an order for 10,000 Sputnik V doses, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter who sought anonymity in discussing business matters. Avis did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Notably, 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. Dr Reddy's declined to comment. The vaccine is also as much as 47% more expensive than AstraZeneca on the private market.
India's monthly production of vaccine, mainly of the AstraZeneca shot known domestically as Covishield, has quadrupled to 300 million doses from April, when a dramatic surge in infections and deaths prompted a halt in exports.
Covishield accounts for 88% of India's inoculations, followed by Bharat Biotech's domestically developed Covaxin, and both have been administered free, mainly at government centres, since mid-January.