India will deploy its vast electoral machinery to deliver 600 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable people in the next six to eight months through conventional cold chain systems, the expert leading the initiative said on Friday.
The government has aligned cold storage facilities with temperatures between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 48 ° F), said VK Paul, who heads the Covid-19 vaccine administration expert group advising the prime minister of India. , Narendra Modi.
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Paul said these preparations meet the requirements of what he said were the four emerging candidates in the race for the Indian vaccine.
“The four that I can see, including Serum, Bharat, Zydus and Sputnik, need a normal cold chain. I don’t see any problem for these vaccines,” he told Reuters in an interview.
The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, is already mass-producing and stocking AstraZeneca’s Covishield injection, while Indian biotech players Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila are developing their own candidate vaccines.
And last month, Indian pharmaceutical actor Hetero signed a deal with Russia’s RDIF to manufacture more than 100 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine per year in India.
The government expects the first approvals “very soon” from the independent emergency medicine regulator, he said.
“I hope as soon as possible because we are ready.”
However, the government had not yet had formal price talks and had no firm purchase orders, he said.
“Indian companies know that the government will give a fair and reasonable price.”
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Supplies and storage
Currently, Indian regulators are considering three vaccines for emergency use authorization, including those from Pfizer Inc, AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech.
But Pfizer’s limited reserves and its requirements for extreme storage conditions of minus 70 degrees Celsius or below would likely limit its use in India, which lacks such infrastructure.
“In a theoretical scenario, where there is no vaccine with the conventional cold chain requirement, capacities of minus 70 degrees Celsius will have to be created, and we will,” Paul said.
Paul said the government is also in talks with Moderna, which also has requirements for ultra-cold storage.
India doesn’t expect supplies from either Pfizer or Moderna until the second half of next year, Paul said.
“We would like to work with them (Moderna) to make this vaccine available in India and (ensure) that the vaccine is also manufactured in India, for us and for other countries. This is the call that we have also given to Pfizer and they are also in contact with them. “
Paul said India may still consider granting emergency use authorization to Pfizer, even though it has not conducted safety and immune response trials in India, but said the decision will be made by the drug regulator.
“As of now, it is a rule or standard operating procedure that any vaccine marketed in India must have results from human studies of Indian subjects,” he said.
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India has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the world behind the United States, but its death rate has been much lower.
Still, Paul said the immediate task was to protect lives and the government had prepared a plan to administer vaccines to 300 million people, or 600 million doses with two injections each, in the first part of the program.
This would be made up of 260 million people over 50, an estimated 10 million under 50 with severe comorbidities, and 30 million frontline workers, who have suffered the brunt of infections.
“As it looks from now on, optimistically, it seems possible to cover the mentioned population of 300 million in a period of six to eight months.”