Amid reports of the shortage of COVID-19 vaccine in various states, Sputnik vaccine has arrived in India, and “hopefully” it will be available in the market from next week, said Dr VK Paul, member (health) of the NITI Aayog, on Thursday.
“Sputnik vaccine has arrived in India. I’m happy to say that we’re hopeful that it’ll be available in the market next week. We’re hopeful that the sale of the limited supply that has come from there (Russia) will begin next week, said Dr Paul while addressing media.
He said the production of Sputnik is scheduled to begin in India by July. “Further supply will also follow. Its production will begin in July and it is estimated that 15.6 crore doses will be manufactured in that period,” Dr Paul said.
Notably, Sputnik V is the third vaccine India has given go-ahead to after Covishield, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and Covaxin, the indigenous vaccine manufactured by Bharat Biotech. Covishield is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
Talking about the Central government’s move to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, the NITI Aayog member said that overall, 216 crore doses of vaccines will be manufactured in India between August and December – “for India and for Indians”.
“There should be no doubt that vaccine will be available for all as we move forward…Any vaccine that is approved by FDA, WHO can come to India. Import license will be granted within 1-2 days. No import license is pending,” he added.
He further informed that the Department of Biotechnology, along with other concerned departments and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been in touch with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson from the initial days of vaccine production.
“They were officially asked if they would like to send doses to or manufacture in India. We will find partners and assist. They had said that they are working in their own way and they would talk of vaccine availability in the third quarter in 2021. We are connected to them. I’m hopeful that they will step forward to increase availability in India. We invite them to manufacture here along with our companies. Johnson and Johnson did a good job. They accepted this offer under Quad,” Dr Paul said.
He added that nearly 18 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in India.
“In the US, the number stands around 26 crores. So, India stands in the third position. We are happy to report that one-third of 45 and above are protected. 45 and above age group contributes to 88 per cent of deaths. So you can imagine, how many dents it would have made to reduce the risk of death of this population,” the NITI Aayog member added.
Dr Paul also informed that Bharat Biotech has welcomed the offer of other companies manufacturing Covaxin to increase its production in the country.
“People say that Covaxin should be given to other companies for manufacturing. I am happy to say that Covaxin manufacturing company (Bharat Biotech) has welcomed this when we discussed it with them. Under this vaccine, a live virus is inactivated and this is done only in BSL3 labs. Not every company has this. We give an open invitation to companies who want to do this. Companies that want to manufacture Covaxin, should do it together. The government will assist so that capacity is increased,” he said.