India exploring options to bring more Covid vaccines


NEW DELHI: As of today, 15 vaccines against Coronavirus are available across the world and while India is currently using two of these vaccines with the third likely to come early next week, the government of India is exploring opportunities to bring in more of these vaccines into India to inoculate as many people as possible by the end of this year.

India is currently using Oxford-AstraZenca and Indian Serum Institute’s Covishield and the indigenously made Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin in its current vaccination programme. Both of these vaccines are inactivated vaccines which mean they have used an inactivated and modified virus to replicate like a coronavirus and trigger a immune response in the body.

While the Covishield has received emergency use approval in 140 countries, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been approved for usage in nine countries so far.

The Indian government has earlier this week announced that the Russian made Sputnik V vaccine would be made available in India from early next week and would be priced at Rs 995 with an additional 5% GST on the same.

The Gamaleya produced Sputnik V vaccine is made from a combination of two adenoviruses called Ad5 and Ad26 and is believed to trigger 91% efficacy in those vaccinated with this vaccine. The Sputnik V vaccine is currently being administered in 66 countries.

The other few vaccines which are being widely used across the world include the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, including in countries like the US, UK and the European Union. Both these vaccines are mRNA vaccines.

However, with the slow pace of vaccination in India and an outcry from multiple states facing a shortage of vaccines since the last 15 days, due to the opening up of vaccination for all above the age of 18 years, the Indian government is looking forward to bring in more vaccines that provide protection against the deadly Coronavirus and have received approvals in countries like the US, UK and the European Union.

Dr V.K. Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog, also said earlier this week that the government is in touch with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to make their vaccines available for India and that India would be willing to offer all assistance to these companies to expedite the import of their vaccines to India.

The Sunday Guardian had reached out to both Pfizer and Moderna, which is currently administering Coronavirus vaccines in more than 46 countries with their plans to supply their vaccines to India.

In a response which was received by this newspaper through email last month, Pfizer spokesperson had said, “In pursuance of the Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) of its Covid-19 vaccine, Pfizer had participated in the Subject Expert Committee meeting of the Drug Regulatory Authority of India. Based on the deliberations at the meeting and our understanding of additional information that the regulator may need, the company has withdrawn its EUA application. Pfizer will continue to engage with the authority and remain committed to making its vaccine available for use by the Government in India.”

On the pricing of the Pfizer vaccine which may be made available in India, the company responded, “We are firmly committed to equitable and affordable access for our Covid-19 vaccine for people around the world. For this pandemic period, our pricing approach has been based on the principle of ensuring broad access and supplies to governments. We are pricing in a way that can help governments to ensure that there is little to no out-of-pocket costs for their populations. This is reflected in all aspects of our agreements with various governments with the pricing strategy being an outcome of volume, advanced commitment, equity and affordability principles.”

However, The Sunday Guardian received no response from Moderna with inregards to the above questions that were sent to the company’s communication team.

The other vaccine that the Government of India is looking at bringing into India is the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine which promises to provide at least 72% efficacy. This vaccine is currently approved in 41 countries.

The Janssen vaccine is a non-replicating viral vector single dose vaccine made by using the Adenovirus, which is commonly found in Chimpanzees.

Some of the other vaccines against Coronavirus that are being used around the world include the Chinese vaccines like the Sinovac’s CoronaVac which has received approvals in 25 countries, and Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV vaccine that has received approval for usage in 41 countries.

Apart from these approved vaccines, there are 33 other vaccine candidates across the globe that are currently in phase 3 trials and are likely to be rolled out by the end of this year.