Amid being the second worst-affected country by the COVID-19 pandemic, India is all set to unveil what would be one of the largest vaccination drives to curb and cure the viral infection and the significant development has come after the country had braced up for the adverse impact of the pandemic with reporting over 10 million cases and 1.50 lakh deaths so far.
India was one of the global nations that initiated the operation of launching the indigenous vaccine at the initial level to give a crucial push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Aatma Nirbhar Bharat - Self-reliant India. 'Covishield', the vaccine of Pune-based Serum Institute of India developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca, and 'Covaxin' developed by Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech were on the race to become India's slayer of COVID-19.
Both the vaccines were in the clinical trials and last week, the Drugs Controller General of India had given approval for both the vaccines for emergency use amid objections from the oppositions and health experts over the lack of the efficacy data of the vaccines. The Central government has recently announced that the vaccination drive will begin on January 16. With just five ahead to commence the drive, all the state governments are preparing for the significant drive.
Earlier, several states had successfully conducted the dry run of the vaccination drive and the Central government had said that the frontline workers will be vaccinated at the first phase. On Monday, the Serum Institute of India (SII) said that it has received the purchase order from the Central government for the Oxford-AstraZeneca 'Covishield' vaccine. According to PTI, a senior official of SII said that the institute had received the order from the government on Monday afternoon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the Center will bear the expenses for the first-phase vaccination of around three crore health workers and frontline staff. The government has said that the vaccination drive will initially target the three crore health care and frontline workers following which people above 50 will be vaccinated. According to reports, the Central government has ordered 11 million doses of SII's Covishield at Rs 200 each.
Covishield is co-developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca in collaboration with the SII. As the commencement of vaccination nears, the government is concerned with safe and secure transportation of the doses across the country. According to reports, the transportation of Covishield from the SII facility's in Pune, Maharashtra would begin from the evening hours of January 11 or 12, and the trucks carrying the vaccines would move out of the facility with tight security.
The Maharashtra government has decided to provide police security to the trucks carrying the vaccine to the airports and to the borders of the state. The SII official said that about 300 GPS-fitted trucks will be used and while 500 trucks will be roped in as per the requirement. The reports say that the first 100 million doses will be priced at Rs 200 each and initially, SII will be delivering 11 million doses initially. The institute said that it will be supplying a few million doses of the vaccine every week and the process of administering the vaccine will start on January 16.
Speaking to a news agency, SII Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said that the vaccine would be priced at about Rs 1,000 per dose when it hit the private market in the country. As the government plans to cover 300 million people, the SII, which is the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines, will be required to produce 600 million to cover India's total vaccination drive. The SII had already stocked 50 million doses for immediate distribution.