NEW DELHI: The Centre is considering initial procurement of around 50 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccine for front-line workers, army personnel and certain other categories of individuals.
The prioritisation of the vaccine once it passes regulatory requirements and becomes available has been under discussion in government along with planning supply chains and distribution. The need to make the vaccine available to front-line workers and the most vulnerable is being examined even as the government intends to scale up distribution so that it can cover a large a section of population as soon as possible.
Official sources said local vaccine manufacturers, asking government for estimates of an assured market as more than one shot is likely to be developed around the same time, perhaps with a gap of few weeks by end-2020 or early next year, have been assured that a large demand is estimated.
During its meeting with major vaccine developers on Monday, the expert group on Covid vaccine administration in the country, headed by NITI Aayog member VK Paul and health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, had asked the companies to submit proposals detailing capacities for manufacturing, price ranges and suggestions on how the government can support them.
“Vaccine development involves huge investments and we have to dedicate some of our capacities to ramp up production of Covid-19 vaccines. This is why the government must indicate an assured market,” said a senior executive from one of the local vaccine manufacturers.
The official said the expert committee is considering various options, including financial assistance for advance manufacturing of vaccines, if required. However, discussions are currently in the nascent stage and the committee is likely to hold a few more meetings before finalising a plan.
It has also asked for suggestions on selection of vaccine candidate from the Standing Technical Sub-Committee of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) – the apex advisory body on vaccines.
At present, there are three vaccine candidates undergoing human trials in India. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) – conducting Phase 2 and 3 of clinical trials for the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate – is ahead of the other two vaccine candidates developed by two local companies – Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila. Both Bharat and Cadila are doing early phase 1 and 2 clinical trials at present.
While the government is eyeing the Oxford vaccine candidate – which has shown promise in early phases conducted in UK – to be the likely first vaccine for Covid-19 to secure regulatory approvals in India, the other two locally developed candidates may also not be far off if they successfully prove safety and efficacy, regulatory sources said.