KATHMANDU, May 6: The government’s failure to purchase Covishield vaccine on time has resulted in the loss of countless lives. As the saga unfolds, new details have emerged of the middlemen who wanted to pocket millions in the midst of the worst pandemic this country has seen in decades.
Nayapatrika Daily first reported that Hukam Logistics & Private Limited, in a letter dated January 26, 2021, informed the Department of Health Services that they would supply one million doses of Covishield vaccine in February 2021, and another one million doses in March 2021, under the condition that the company receives 10% (40 cents per dose) as a commission fee. This alone amounts to 93.6 million rupees as a commission fee.
Photo Credit: Nayapatrika
On February 10, 2021, officials from the Department Health Services had a conversation over the phone with the SII about the vaccine purchase. On February 11, 2021, the Serum Institute of India (SII) wrote to the Department of Health Services, stating that they would supply two million doses of the vaccine at US$4 per dose to Kathmandu.
Then on February 24, 2021, Hukam wrote to the Department of Health Services, stating that would be able to supply five million doses of vaccine for US$5.5 per dose, with a commission of 55 cents per dose. All added, the cost per vaccine would come down to US$6.05.
Hukam increased the price of vaccines by 50%, just 12 days after the SII wrote to the Department of Health Services. In addition to the 55 cents commission, Hukam demanded another 10% in the deal. And the company demanded 80% advance payment, and 20% before the shipment. Had this deal gone through, Hukam would have pocketed 320.43 million rupees as a commission.
Vijay Dugad and Ritu Singh Vaidya, partners at Hukam Distribution & Logistics Private Limited, are the designated local agents of SII in Nepal. Their connection reaches all the way to Baluwatar. With powerful forces behind them, the company ultimately derailed Nepal’s quest for vaccines.
Now that Hukam successfully collapsed the vaccine purchase deal, Nepal is scrambling to find ways to bring in the needed vaccine soon. India is grappling with the rising COVID-19 cases, and the SII has earlier said that they are not in a position to supply the vaccine anytime soon.