COVID-19 vaccine may get license in coming weeks: Health Ministry
India may license some COVID-19 vaccines in the next few weeks, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday. Three vaccine candidates are under consideration by the Indian drug regulator for licensing: Oxford University and AstraZeneca's Covishield, Pfizer-BioNTech's BNT162b2, and Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN. The government also said that preparatory activities for vaccine rollout are being conducted by both the central and state governments.
'Some vaccine candidates may get licensed in next few weeks'
Health Ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said, "Some of the vaccine candidates may get licensed in the next few weeks." "Six vaccine candidates are in the clinical trial stage in India," he said, adding that India's regulatory framework has a specific provision for grant of emergency approval. An expert panel will meet on Wednesday to review emergency approval requests by the three aforementioned vaccine makers.
'Early licensure possible for three vaccines under consideration'
NITI Aayog member Dr. VK Paul, who also heads the national task force on COVID-19, said, "Three vaccine candidates are under consideration for licensing. There is hope that early licensure is possible for all of them or any one of them."
'Will launch massive vaccine production after green signal'
Detailing further plans, Bhushan said, "Once we get a green signal from our scientists, we will launch massive production of the vaccine." "We have made all the preparations and drawn an outline to ramp up production of the vaccine to make it available to each and every person in the shortest time possible," the official added.
Expert group recommends prioritizing healthcare workers, cops, armed forces, etc.
Bhushan said a National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 was constituted in August to provide guidance on prioritization of population groups, procurement and inventory management, vaccine selection, and vaccine delivery and tracking mechanism. NEGVAC recommended prioritizing healthcare workers, police personnel, armed forces, home guards, civil defense and disaster management volunteers, municipal workers, and persons above 50 years.
'Process of collecting database of healthcare workers has started'
Bhushan said, "The process of collecting a database of healthcare workers has started across all states, union territories, and central ministries. This data is being uploaded on the CO-WIN software. This data will be verified."
'COVID-19 vaccinations will have minimal impact on routine health services'
Bhushan said the COVID-19 vaccination drive will have minimal impact on routine health services including routine immunization. He said, "There are around 2.39 lakh vaccinators (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife or ANM) across the country. Only 1.54 lakh ANMs will be used for COVID-19 vaccination." Existing cold-chain facilities have the potential to store vaccine shots for the first three crore healthcare and frontline workers.
Delhi, Hyderabad airports prepare for storing vaccine doses
Delhi and Hyderabad airports have already started prepping temperature-controlled containers and zones to store millions of doses. The two airports also have "cool chambers" that can be set to low temperatures of -20°C to ensure that optimum temperatures are maintained.
How bad is the outbreak in India?
According to the Health Ministry, till Tuesday morning, India reported 97,03,770 COVID-19 cases, with 26,567 new infections in the past 24 hours. The total cases include 3,83,866 active infections, while 91,78,946 people have recovered. The death toll climbed to 1,40,958 deaths with 385 more fatalities in the past 24 hours. Bhushan said there has been a "steady and continuous" decline in infections since mid-September.