After the UK yesterday (December 2), approved American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, there has a been a discussion over when the vaccine will be available in India for emergency immunisation.
Committed to engaging with Indian govt: Pfizer
Today (December 3), Pfizer said it is committed to engaging with many governments including India to explore opportunities to make Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine available in these countries.
Pfizer said it will supply this vaccine only through government contracts based on agreements with respective government authorities and following regulatory authorisation or approval.
When will India get Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine?
In November 2020, NITI Aayog member (Health) V K Paul, who also heads the National Task Force on COVID-19, had said the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine in India might take some months.
"The arrangement of cold-chains for storing the vaccine developed by Pfizer at a low temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius is a big challenge and it will not be easy for any nation. But then, if at all it has to be obtained, we are examining what we need to do...and will work out a strategy," he had said.
Here are some of the hindrances in Pfizer becoming India’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate now:
• Lack of appropriate cold storage facilities: Pfizer-BioNTech has developed an mRNA vaccine that needs to be stored in -70 degrees celsius.
• Currently, the cold storage network in India used for universal immunisation programme can handle temperatures between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius
• It is costlier than other kinds of COVID-19 vaccines
• Pfizer has deals with US, UK, Japan and other European Union countries to send them millions of vaccine doses. Due to this constraint, India may not get the vaccine first because the US-based firm has these prior commitments to fulfill.
• In India, for a vaccine to get approved, needs to conduct local trials, and Pfizer has not done yet.
• Pfizer had conducted human trials and completed all phases in the US and UK and thus got approvals there.