Image Credits: AP/PTI
With states getting no response even after floating global tenders for COVID-19 vaccine procurement, top American pharma companies Pfizer and Moderna have offered their respective COVID-19 vaccines to India even as the country continues to ramp up indigenous production of anti-Coronavirus jabs. As per PTI sources, Pfizer is ready to offer 5 crore COVID-19 vaccine shots this year, however, it has set a pre-condition. Pfizer has sought significant regulatory relaxations in India including indemnification, sources say.
It is important to note that Pfizer had earlier withdrawn its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application in India after the Centre had sought additional information regarding its COVID-19 vaccine. However, with the Centre now enlisting all COVID-19 vaccines approved in the UK, USA, Japan and by the WHO for a fast-track approval in India, the doors for Pfizer could be opened up soon. The Pfizer vaccine has shown an efficacy of 95% at preventing symptomatic COVID infection after two doses and appears to be equally protective across all age groups and against all variants of the virus so far. Pertinently, the development comes at a time when EAM S Jaishankar has just landed in the United States of America for his 5-day visit and is expected to negotiate a vaccine deal for India and the neighbouring countries. One possible inhibitor to the widespread use of Pfizer vaccine in India is the fact that it has to be stored at -18 degree Celsius requiring a vastly more powerful cold chain.
Meanwhile, another US-based pharmaceutical firm, Moderna is likely to launch a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine in India by next year, PTI sources have reported. Moderna is said to be in talks with Cipla and other Indian firms to supply 5 crore doses mostly by the end of this year. To date, Russia's 'Sputnik Light' is the only single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to be known with trials currently underway by other manufacturers. Significantly, Moderna's anti-COVID jab is said to have 94.1% effectiveness at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 after the second dose.
While India faces an acute shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, sources have said that from August onwards, citizens of the country would not have to register in advance or stand in long queues, and would simply be able to go and get vaccinated. This is on account of the country aiming to have 8-10 vaccine companies at its disposal by August and to manufacture over 300 crore vaccine doses by the end of the year, a figure that is double the country population. Union Health Ministry has announced that the 216 crore doses of COVID vaccines would be manufactured in India between August to December 2021, while Niti Aayog Member Dr VK Paul later informed that the number is likely to reach 300 crore doses by the first quarter of 2022.
In addition to the existing Hyderabad plant and the Bengaluru plant in process, Bharat Biotech last week announced the setting up of an additional manufacturing unit of COVAXIN in Gujarat to boost the production of its COVID-19 vaccines. The Hyderabad-based pharma firm informed that COVAXIN will now be manufactured by Chiron Behring Vaccines, Ankleshwar, Gujarat, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bharat Biotech. It has set an aim to produce 200 million doses of COVAXIN within a year, with the vaccine availability at the Ankleshwar facility to commence from the fourth Quarter of 2021. With the addition of a manufacturing plant in Gujarat, Bharat Biotech has now ramped up the production of COVAXIN to 1 billion doses per annum, in its own established campuses.