WHO-approved Covid-19 vaccines can come to India, more than 2 billion doses to become available soon: Govt
The Centre on Thursday reiterated that any vaccine which is approved by United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) can come to India. The announcement was made at a press conference by NITI Aayog member VK Paul, who also heads the national expert group on vaccines.
"Import license will be granted within 1-2 days. No import license is pending," Dr Paul said. Last month, the central government had fast-tracked approvals for Covid-19 vaccines cleared for use in the US, the UK, the European Union and Japan.
As the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, India exported more than 65 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines under its “Vaccine Maitri” initiative but supplies have slowed to a trickle since March as domestic infection rates surged.
Dr Paul said that the department of biotechnology, and other departments concerned, and the ministry of external affairs (MEA) have been in touch with vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
"They were officially asked if they'd like to send doses to or manufacture in India. The government told them that it will find partners and assist them. They said that they are working in their own way and they would talk of vaccine availability in Q3, in 2021," said Dr Paul.
"We are connected to them. I'm hopeful that they'll step forward to increase availability in India," the NITI Aayog member said.
The government official gave an update about the milestone achieved by India. "Nearly 18 crore doses of #COVID19 vaccine have been administered in India. In the US, the number stands around 26 crores. So, India stand in the third position," said Dr Paul.
He further said that 216 crore doses of vaccines will be manufactured in India between August and December. "There should be no doubt, vaccine will be available for all as we move forward," said Dr Paul.
Many states have claimed shortage of Covid-19 vaccines and have either stalled or cut back on plans to vaccinate people in the age group of 18-44. Eleven states have so far opted for floating of global tenders to get Covid-19 vaccines.
These states have asked the Centre to changes its vaccination policy and allow other manufacturers to make Covid-19 vaccine to meet the target of a populous country like India.
India has so far been using Covishield - made by AstraZeneca - and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for its nationwide inoculation drive. Dr Paul said on Thursday that Russia's Sputnik V - the third vaccine which was given emergency use approval by India's drugs regulator - will be available in the market from next week.