The first batch of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine will be arriving in India in the next few days, government sources told CNN-News18 on Saturday. With this, India will have four options to choose from – Covaxin, Covishield, Sputnik V and Moderna.
The government has also reiterated in recent Health Ministry briefings that Pfizer may be coming to India, soon. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had in June said his firm was in the final stages of getting approval for its Covid-19 vaccine from the Indian government, adding that when approved, the pharma giant will supply one billion doses to India within this year.
With more options, India may not only achieve its ambitious target of vaccinating a majority of its vast population by the end of this year, but the constant scarcity of doses will also be resolved.
In the wake of several states urging the Centre to step in after they failed to purchase vaccines through global tenders, the government on June 21 tweaked the vaccine policy and reverted to the centralised procurement system. Despite this, some states are still reporting a shortage in Covid-19 jabs.
Here is a lowdown on the vaccine options India is and is set to provide its citizens:
Covishield and Covaxin were the vaccines India kicked off its ambitious vaccination drive with on January 16. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine 'Covishield' is locally manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The vaccination is given in two doses, four to twelve weeks apart. It can be safely maintained at temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius and simply supplied in existing healthcare facilities such as doctors' offices.
Covaxin is a manufactured by Bharat Biotech, a 24-year-old vaccine company that exports to 123 countries and has a portfolio of 16 vaccines, using a coronavirus sample isolated by India's National Institute of Virology. The vaccine works with an inactivated virus, meaning it is made up of coronaviruses that have been killed, making it safe to inject into the body.
The maximum price of Covishield for private Covid-19 Vaccination Centres (CVCs) has been fixed at Rs 780 per dose, while that of Covaxin is Rs 1,410 per dose.
Private hospital chains Fortis Healthcare and Apollo Hospitals have started administering Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V at two of their hospitals in Delhi-NCR. Indraprastha Apollo in Delhi started administering Sputnik V in a staged manner from Wednesday. Around 1,000 people have been vaccinated so far.
Sputnik V, manufactured by Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, uses two different viruses that cause the common cold (adenovirus) in humans. The two doses, given 21 days apart, are different and not interchangeable. The Centre has fixed the price of the vaccine at Rs 1,145 per dose.
Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology has developed the vaccine and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is marketing it globally.
With its first batch expected in India ‘in a couple of days’, Moderna will become the fourth vaccine to be available for use in India. The vaccine doses will be imported by Indian drug manufacturer Cipla, and will be under the central government's purview. The Centre plans to provide the Moderna doses directly to states.
India is receiving the Moderna vaccine doses under the COVAX scheme of the World Health Organisation, a few days after the DGCI granted approval to it.
On June 22, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that his US-based company is in the final stages of getting approval for its Covid-19 vaccine from the Indian government, adding that when approved, the pharma giant will supply one billion doses to India within this year.
The Centre is also planning to grant indemnity from liability to Pfizer and Moderna to speed up approvals for the vaccines in India. Indemnity means protection to vaccine makers from legal proceedings, which ensures they can't be sued in India.
AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria in an interview with CNN-News18 had said that granting indemnity to Pfizer would boost Covid-19 vaccination for not just children, but also adults.
More on the way
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his recent speeches, has hinted that the supply of vaccines is about to increase in the coming days. He said that seven companies are producing different types of vaccines today. Trials of three more vaccines are in the advanced stage, he said. The Prime Minister also talked of trials for two vaccines for children and a 'nasal vaccine' in one of his speeches.