NEW DELHI: As the national expert group on Covid-19 vaccine firms up plans for procurement and distribution of shots, the Centre is betting on the five vaccine candidates that are currently undergoing clinical trials in India.
The candidates include three that are in advanced stages of trials in India — the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate for which Pune-based Serum Institute is conducting phase 3 clinical trials, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin which is also in phase 3, and Russia’s Sputnik V which is expected to start phase 2/3 trials next week.
Niti Aayog member Dr V K Paul, who also heads the national expert group on vaccine administration, said all these vaccines were on easy platforms and availability of adequate doses as per India’s requirement was also assured. The other two candidates include Cadila’s shot which has almost completed phase 2 and a candidate by Biological E which is in Phase 1/2.
The government said it was also watching the two global candidates from Pfizer and Moderna. However, it believes the cold chain requirements for Pfizer’s candidate pose a major challenge and its limited number of doses would not be enough to meet India’s demand.
“To our knowledge, there is only one vaccine that needs to be kept in -70 to -80 degree Celsius temperature — which will be difficult for all countries as it can be an obstacle for any country to scale up distribution. But we are examining even that and, if needed, we will do whatever is required to get doses of even that to meet our requirement,” Paul said.
However, he maintained that it would be difficult to meet India’s requirement with the Pfizer vaccine during the initial few months.
India has estimated that around 30-crore people, including healthcare and frontline workers and people in high-risk groups like those older than 50, will get the vaccine in the initial phase.