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PM Modi rings Covid-19 vaccine with Aatmanirbhar Bharat doctrine

PM Narendra Modi's

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stepped on the gas to speed up the production and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccinewith his whistle-stop visits on Saturday to three of India’s top facilities, as part of his signature Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission.

Modi’s whirlwind three city stock-taking tour began with a visit to Zydus Cadila research center in Changodar industrial area, over 20 km from Ahmedabad. The drugmaker has begun the second phase clinical trial of the Covid-19 vaccine branded as ZyCoV-D.

Visited the Zydus Biotech Park in Ahmedabad to know more about the indigenous DNA based vaccine being developed by Zydus Cadila. I compliment the team behind this effort for their work. The government of India is actively working with them to support them in this journey," the Prime Minister tweeted. Modi's second stop was at Hyderabad, Bharat Biotech facility. "At the Bharat Biotech facility in Hyderabad, was briefed about their indigenous Covid-19 vaccine. Congratulated the scientists for their progress in the trials so far. Their team is closely working with ICMR to facilitate speedy progress," the PM tweeted after his visit.

On his last trip the day, Narendra Modi visited Serum Institute of India, Pune and interacted with the team at the Institute. They shared details about their progress so far on how they plan to further ramp up vaccine manufacturing.

In a tweet, the Prime Minister said, "Had a good interaction with the team at Serum Institute of India. They shared details about their progress so far on how they plan to further ramp up vaccine manufacturing. Also took a look at their manufacturing facility."

In preparation for the vaccine, India faces a major cold storage challenge as most of the vaccines being developed have to kept at -70-degree Celsius temperature—a provision that India mostly does not have. But that is where the Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission kicks in. The Prime Minister is viewing the gap in vaccine infrastructure as an opportunity to develop these facilities in India, with foreign help.

The Hindustan Times is reporting that Prime Minister has taken up the offer of his counterpart in Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, for setting up a specialized refrigerated vaccine transportation plant in Gujarat to ensure last mile drug delivery to villages all over the country. Citing official sources based in Delhi and Ahmedabad, the daily pointed out that Luxembourg firm B Medical Systems is sending a high-level team to Gujarat next week to set up a vaccine cold chain including solar vaccine refrigerators, freezers and transport boxes.

As the setting up of a full-fledged plant will require nearly two years, the company has decided to start by getting only the refrigeration boxes from Luxembourg and source the best content from the domestic market under the “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” program. The refrigerated transport boxes will be able to deliver vaccine between four degrees Celsius to 20 below zero even though the Luxembourg-based company has the technology to transport vaccine 80 below zero degrees Celsius, the daily said.

The second leg of the Prime Minister’s visit began with a visit to the firm Bharat BioTech, which is working on Covaxin—India’s indigenous vaccine developer. Modi will wrap up his high octane visit with a stopover at the Serum Institute of India (SII), which has partnered with global pharma giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University for a coronavirus vaccine.

The visit to all the three facilities bears Modi’s patent Aaatmanirbhar doctrine. The Prime Minister’s Pune visit precedes the arrival of ambassadors and high commissioners of various countries at SII on December 4, signaling that the vaccine could to have a global footprint. SII says that if the regulators green-light the vaccine soon, production and distribution it will start as early January 2021.

Earlier this week Swedish-British company, AstraZeneca and Oxford University have reported that its coronavirus vaccine, AZD1222 has a 90 per cent potency in late-stage clinical trials. The announcement brings hope for its Indian-manufacturer SII, which is currently conducting a third clinical trial in India. Three other vaccines—one by Pfizer, which has partnered with Germany’s Biotech, US biotech firm Moderna, and Russia’s Sputnik-V are also in the fray to cater to the vast Indian and overseas market.

Most developed countries have pre-booked with Pfizer and Moderna, expensive vaccines. Earlier, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan categorically said in an interview with The Economic Times that India may not need the Pfizer vaccine. “So, it does not make sense for other countries like India to consider it (Pfizer). We are in touch with everyone but we feel that we may not need Pfizer vaccine," Harsh Vardhan said.

Presently, 61 million Covid-19 cases have been reported across the globe all these cases are reported within a year. The United States has been the worst impacted, with more than 260,000 deaths and 12.6 million infections.  India's current caseload of the Covid-19 stands at 9.3 million and 1,36,000 deaths.