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Govt ready with plan to give Covid vaccine shots to 300 million Indians in 6 months

Govt ready with plan to give Covid vaccine shots to 300 million Indians in 6 months

The Indian government is ready with a plan to inoculate 300 million people with Covid-19 vaccine shots in the next six to eight months which will require 600 million doses in the first part of the programme expected to be launched in the next few days, according to Niti Aayog member VK Paul.

This would comprise 30 million frontline workers including doctors and healthcare staff, 260 million people above the age of 50, and another 10 million below the age of 50 with serious co-morbidities.

Paul, who heads India’s expert committee on Covid vaccination, told Reuters news agency that the country’s vast election machinery would be used to carry out the programme and ‘’the way it looks as of now, optimistically, it appears possible to cover the above population of 300 million in six to eight months time.”

The government expects the first approvals “very soon” from the independent drug regulator for emergency use, Paul said.

He said on Saturday at a Ficci event that the Government is also in touch with the UK's regulator regarding the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being developed by the Serum Institute of India, Pune. “Serum institute has a phenomenal capacity to produce vaccines…If this succeeds, we will be able to meet not just our but the global requirement,” Paul said.

AstraZeneca has completed Phase III clinical trials of its vaccine, the last stage before regulatory approval.

But under British rules, the government must also ask the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to green light the drug.

Britain has secured access to 100 million doses of the vaccine produced by the British drug manufacturer in partnership with the University of Oxford.

The government has lined up cold storage facilities with temperatures between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 48°F), said V.K. Paul, who heads the group of experts on vaccine administration for COVID-19 that advises India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Paul said these preparations meet the requirements of what he said were the four emerging candidates in the race for India’s vaccine.

“The four that I can see, including Serum, Bharat, Zydus, and Sputnik need normal cold chain. I see no problem for these vaccines,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, is already mass producing and stockpiling AstraZeneca’s Covishield shot, while Indian biotech players Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila are developing their own vaccine candidates.

And last month, Indian pharmaceutical player Hetero inked a deal with Russia’s RDIF to manufacture over 100 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine per year in India..