New Delhi, January 1
Given that India has set the goal of vaccinating 30 crore people with Covid-19 jabs by July, can the country procure enough doses to fulfil that goal?
To vaccinate 30 crore people, the country will need 60 crore doses as the two vaccines that are leading the race to get the approval from the government require two-doses per person for protection.
These two vaccines that the government is currently considering giving the approval are “Covishield” and “Covaxin” While the Pune-based Serum Institute of India has partnered with Oxford-AstraZeneca for conducting clinical trials and manufacturing “Covishield”, Bharat Biotech has collaborated with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for “Covaxin”.
Approval for Covishield is expected soon as the Subject Expert Committee of the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation on Friday recommended its emergency use.
However, it now appears that the Serum Institute of India is planning to supply the government with 30 crore doses by July, enough for vaccinating 15 crore people, according to media reports.
If it works out that way, the government will be able to reach just half way of fulfilling the phase-1 goals with Covishield alone.
“For rolling out the vaccination campaign, cold chain equipment such as walk-in coolers, walk-in freezers, refrigerators, deep freezers are already procured and distributed to the states,” Harshal R. Salve, Associate Professor at Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, told IANS.
“Vaccine storage capacities at airports and major railway staions are being created.
“You may have approval for another vaccine too in the meanwhile that can be included in the mass the vaccination drive,” Salve added.
It now appears that the success of India’s vaccination drive may rely on the efficacy of Covaxin in protecting people against Covid-19.
This is specially in view of the fact that India did not sign early procurement deals for the other two vaccines that have got approval in several countries including the US — the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
As these two vaccines are now in great demand, they appear unprepared to supply India huge number of doses quickly even if New Delhi fast-tracks their approvals.
Pfizer has already sought the emergency use authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine in India.
Now experts believe that to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19, about 70 per cent of the country’s population will have to be vaccinated, meaning about 90 crore people.
If other vaccines that are approved in the future also require two doses per person, this will mean that India will need 180 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan earlier this month said that about 30 vaccines against Covid-19 are in different stages of development in India.
How many of them get the required approval may say a lot about how quickly India achieves herd immunity against Covid-19.