Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan remains upbeat about the country receiving 500 million COVID-19 vaccines by July 2021 to administer as much as 25 million citizens against the novel coronavirus.
In his tweet on the development, the minister stated that “There is a high-level expert body going into all aspects of vaccines. Our rough estimate and the target would be to receive and utilize 400 to 500mn doses covering 200mn-250mn people by July 2021.”
One of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India (SII) and several other private organizations have been working with associates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to secure vaccines from US drug developer Novavax Inc.
The minister updated that the country has set up committees to look into various aspects of the vaccine supply chain, including availability timelines for various vaccines while obtaining commitments from manufacturers to ensure the maximum doses are available. He reiterated that the nation’s government is taking all possible measures to ensure the vaccines are distributed in a “fair and equitable” manner when they are available.
“For that, we are building capacities in HR, training, supervision, etc, on a massive scale,” the minister added.
Mr. Vardhan updated that regional authorities at various states are being guided to provide details regarding available infrastructure requirements such as cold storages which expect to be completed by “the end of this October.”
Updating the process of having COVID-19 vaccines from other countries, the minister commented that “We are open to assessing the feasibility of introducing several COVID-19 vaccines in the country. However, all vaccines that have proven to be safe, immunogenic and efficacious in clinical trials outside India need to undergo bridging studies to prove their safety and immunogenicity in the Indian population as well.”
“Such studies are conducted with a much smaller sample size and quickly. A similar approach will be adopted for Covid-19 vaccines which are developed outside the country,” he summarized.
Three potential vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate called Covishield, Indegenolusly developed Covaxin (Bharat Biotech-ICMR-NIV) and ZyCoV-D by Zydus Cadila are under various stages of trials in the country.
The health minister updated that the final call on Phase-3 trials of the Russian vaccine candidate Sputnik V is still under deliberation. “This issue is still under consideration and no final decision has been taken as yet,” he said.