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Centre Places Order For 30 Crore Doses Of Biological E's COVID-19 Vaccine Amid 2nd Wave

In a key development on Thursday, the Health Ministry announced that it had placed orders to procure 30 crore doses of Biological E's COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19, Biological E vaccine

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In a key development on Thursday, the Health Ministry announced that it had placed orders to procure 30 crore doses of Biological E's COVID-19 vaccine. Founded in 1953, the Hyderabad-based company develops, manufactures and supplies vaccines and therapeutics. An advance payment of Rs.1500 crore will be made by the Ministry to Biological E which will manufacture and stockpile the aforesaid quantity of vaccine doses from August to December 2021. This is expected to boost India's vaccination drive which has slowed down in some states owing to a paucity of doses. 

A Union Health Ministry statement read, "Biological-E COVID Vaccine candidate has been supported by Government of India from Preclinical stage to Phase-3 studies. Department of Biotechnology has not only provided financial assistance in terms of grant-in-aid of over Rs.100 cr but has also  partnered with Biological-E to conduct all animal challenge and assay studies through its Research Institute Translational Health Science Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad. This has been undertaken as part of Government of India's ‘Mission COVID Suraksha- the Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission’ which was launched to reinforce and accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development efforts as part of the third stimulus package, Atmanirbhar 3.0."

The vaccine being developed by Biological-E is an RBD protein sub-unit vaccine and is likely to be available in the next few months. Its phase 1/2 clinical trials conducted in about 360 healthy subjects aged between 18 and 65 showed that it is safe and immunogenic. At present, it is undergoing Phase 3 trials which entail around 1268 healthy subjects in the age range of 18-80 years at 15 sites across the country. Earlier in May, Biological E had announced that it will also produce the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at its manufacturing plant in India. 

COVID-19 vaccination in India

From May 1 onwards, the Centre relaxed the age bar for COVID-19 inoculation and allowed the vaccine manufacturers to supply 50 per cent of its doses to state governments and in the open market. While some states managed to commence the vaccination for the 18-44 age category, the governments of Maharashtra, Delhi and Karnataka have suspended this drive owing to a paucity of doses. Special emphasis has been laid on those aged above 45 who are waiting for the second dose of the vaccine. So far, both Moderna and Pfizer have refused to supply vaccines to states emphasising they will deal only with the Centre. 

A total of 17,29,54,223 persons have been inoculated in India whereas 4,39,12,907 of them have received the second dose of the vaccine too. The Union government has asserted that over 216 crore doses of vaccines will be manufactured in India between August and December this year. This includes COVISHIELD (75 crore doses), COVAXIN (55 crore doses), Bio E Sub Vaccine (30 crore doses), Zydus Cadila DNA vaccine (5 crore doses), SII-Novavax (20 crore doses), BB Nasal Vaccine (10 crore doses), Genova mRNA vaccine (6 crore doses) and Sputnik V (15.6 crore doses). 

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