India's Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said that India may not need Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine as there are many other vaccine candidates being tested in India, including the indigenous Bharat Biotech candidate Covaxin, which is currently in the final stage of human trials.
In an interview with The Economics Times, Vardhan said, "United States has not even given licence to Pfizer. So it does not make sense for other countries like India to consider it. We are in touch with everyone but I feel that we may not need Pfizer vaccine."
Pfizer has recently applied for emergency use authorization of its vaccine candidate to the FDA. If granted, they will be able to use the vaccine "in high-risk populations...by the middle to end of December 2020."
Vardhan also said the vaccine would have to first cater to its own country and then fulfil all the order placed by the other countries according to the deals they have signed. He added that Pfizer does not have the "linkages in India to manufacture the vaccine."
Scroll reported that Vardhan said that no state will be given any preferential treatment and the distribution of vaccines will be equitable. He also stated that healthcare workers will be the first ones to receive the vaccine.
"There will be equitable distribution of vaccine," he said. "States are part of the national expert group...nobody will get the vaccine by pulling a favour."
India is currently testing three vaccines and are in various stages of clinical trials. Vardhan said that the vaccine will be made available by February or March 2021.
In Phase 3 of the trials is Oxford University's vaccine that it has developed with AstraZeneca. The trials are being conducted by Pune based Serum Institute and they will also be responsible for distribution. The vaccine is expected to come out by January 2021.
Dr Reddy's Laboratories has partnered with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to test its Sputnik V vaccine. It recently received approvals to start Phase 2/3 trials in India and has partnered with the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) which gives them access to its clinical trial centres. Dr Reddy's will also distribute the vaccine if it gets approval in India.
Covaxin, being developed by Bharat Biotech in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and is in Phase 3 of clinical trials which are being conducted on 26,000 volunteers across 22 centre.