Govt bets big on India-made Covid vaccines

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 17, 2020

Vinod Paul, Member, NITI Aayog

As situation in Delhi turns worrisome, announces steps to tackle rising cases

The government is confident that at least one out of the five Covid-19 vaccines being produced and tested in the country will be successful. Also, getting sufficient quantities of the vaccine will not be a problem as they are based on ‘easy platform technologies’.

Availability of one of these vaccines would make it possible for Health Ministry officials to breathe easy as they would not only be cheaper, but would also not require costly deep-freez technologies needed by such vaccines as the one developed by Pfizer, jointly with its German collaborator BioNTech.

Vaccines on trials

Addressing a press conference here, Vinod K Paul, Member, NITI Aayog (Health), said of the five vaccines being made in India, two — manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad — are in advanced Phase-III trials, while others are in early test stages. Another promising candidate is the Russian Sputnik V vaccine being made available through Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, which is in Phase II/III trials.

Paul, who also heads the National Expert Group on Covid-19 Vaccine Administration, said even though the government was in talks with Pfizer, it was not hoping to get sufficient quantities of the vaccine to cover the entire Indian population, as the US firm has commitments to supply elsewhere. Moreover, the vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage conditions, could pose a hurdle for the scale up. It could, thus, only be an alternative option for the government, he added.

Third wave in Delhi

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, also present at the briefing, listed a slew of measures that were drawn up at a meeting convened by Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday for improving the Covid-19 situation in Delhi, which is currently witnessing a third wave.

The number of cases in Delhi started going up soon after the Dasara festival to as high as 8,000. It remained more or less steady at 3,797 in the last 24 hours because of fewer tests conducted.

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Bhushan said expert teams, consisting of a community medicine specialist and a hospital management expert, among others, are visiting private hospitals in the capital to explore the availability of beds for treating Covid-19 patients and identifying gaps in facilities so that the government can support them. Similarly, it was also decided at the meeting to increase the number of ICU beds in the capital to 6,000, which, Paul said, would be sufficient to meet any eventualities. The number of Covid-19 tests in Delhi would be doubled to 1-1.2 lakh in the coming days. The more accurate RT-PCR tests would be carried out on half the samples, Paul added, describing the situation in the capital as “a bit worrying.”

The Delhi government has sought approvals to restrict the number of people who can attend weddings and social gatherings to 50 from 200 and to impose a lockdown on local markets when there is s surge in cases.

In the light of festivals, ongoing winter season and the just-concluded elections in some States, there could be an increase in the Covid-19 cases in a week or two. In the last 24 hours, India reported 29,613 new Covid-19 cases even though there were more recoveries than fresh ones for almost 45 days in a row. There are over 4.5 lakh active Covid-19 cases in the country as of now.

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Published on November 17, 2020

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