The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said that it is prepared to roll out the coronavirus vaccine by January 13, paving way for mass vaccination drive in the country.
“We are prepared to roll out Covid-19 vaccines within 10 days of granting emergency use authorisation date, based on dry run feedback,” said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan at a press conference. Approval to two vaccines was given on January 3.
The Drug Controller General of India had, on Sunday, announced approvals to two vaccine – Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield manufactured by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – against coronavirus infection – for restricted emergency use.
The announcement is a major relief for India which has the second highest number of infections in the world, after the US.
The vaccine will be first offered to one crore healthcare workers, along with two crore frontline and essential workers and 27 crore elderly, mostly above the age of 50 years with co-morbidities.
On Saturday, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had announced that one crore healthcare workers, along with two crore frontline will get the vaccine for free.
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has sent the first batch of its Covid vaccine, Covaxin, to the government for further distribution in the immunisation drive the country is set to start in coming days, its CMD Dr Krishna Ella said on Monday.
“We have already sent the batch to the Central Research Institute in Kasauali,” he said at a press conference.
However, he did not disclose the quantity of vials sent to the government. Ella also did not share information on the order specifying quantity of the doses it received from the government.
The Central Research Institute (CRI), under the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), is the nodal agency to tests the drugs and facilitate in the roll out to the northern part of the country.
Ella also said that the firm has 20 million doses ready and is confident to manufacture 80 million more by July.
Meanwhile, the company is aiming to manufacture 700 million doses of Covaxin in future with four new facilities it is ramping up in south India.
“We are preparing three facilities in Hyderabad and one in Bangalore,” he specified.
On the question of pricing, Ella did not reveal the exact cost of the vaccine but said that it would be competitive with others. “Initially it may cost more but as the production scales up, the price would come down with more competition in the market,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ella also hailed the decision of the Indian drug regulator to approve Covaxin for emergency restricted use and termed it as a giant leap for innovation and novel product development in India.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had approved Covaxin for restricted use in emergency situations in the country on Sunday. The DCGI has also allowed Bharat Biotech to conduct its trials on children who are above the age of 12 years.
The company informed that it has already been used for children above 12 in the last round and has been found safe. The firm is currently conducting Phase 3 trials in India.