New Delhi: Treading warily, India has taken yet another baby step towards its first coronavirus vaccine with an expert committee recommending the use of the Oxford candidate, which will be manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
Now, the ball is in the court of the Drug Controller General of India which has to give the final nod for its emergency application.
DCGI VG Somani’s approval will clear the decks for the vaccine's rollout in India, which has the highest caseload in the world, after the US.
The rollout will begin from January 6, according to ministry sources.
For the Government, Covishield (the Oxford vaccine) will cost around US $ 3 per dose, so US $ 6 [Rs 440] per person, but for the private market, it will cost around Rs 700-800," Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Friday.
The Central government plans to vaccinate nearly 30 crore people in the first phase. There will be one crore healthcare workers in the queue, along with 2 crore frontline and essential workers and 27 crore elderly, mostly above the age of 50 years with co-morbidities.
More than five crore doses of the vaccine have already been stockpiled by its manufacturer in India -- the Pune-based Serum Institute of India.
The meeting of the expert panel came a day before dry run of the vaccine is slated to commence in all the states and Union Territories to equip the administration in management of vaccine supply, storage and logistics, including cold chain management.
Bharat Biotech, which has partnered with the Indian Council of Medical Research for Covaxin, also made its presentation before the committee.
America's Pfizer was the first one to apply for the accelerated approval on December 4, followed by Serum and Bharat Biotech on December 6 and 7, respectively. Pfizer has, however, sought more time to present the data.
As India awaits a silver bullet against coronavirus with bated breath, the DCGI hinted at the approval and said that the country will have a "Happy New Year with something in hand".
Govt will cover cost of only 30 cr people
The government will cover the vaccination cost of only 30 crore people, not the entire population.
According to Vinod Paul, a NITI Aayog member and head of the national Covid-19 task force, the government will bear the cost of inoculating 30 crore individuals belonging to priority groups in the first phase of its vaccination drive.
In the ensuing 6-8 months, frontline workers, especially those working in the healthcare sector and the elderly, will be targeted. He added that 31 hubs had been set up to supply vaccines to 29,000 vaccination points in last-mile delivery.
Preparedness for inoculating other groups prioritised by the government is also in its advanced stages, he added.
Unveiling the government strategy, Dr Paul said: "We want to ensure that the entire nation develops herd immunity. The ultimate goal is to stall the spread of the disease," he said.