PM Modi chairs meeting to review India’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy

Various issues, including the prioritisation of population groups, reaching out to healthcare workers, cold-chain infrastructure augmentation, adding vaccinators and tech platform for vaccine roll-out were also discussed in the meeting.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday chaired a meeting to review India’s strategy for Covid-19 vaccination and its subsequent delivery and distribution. Important issues related to the progress of vaccine development, regulatory approvals and procurement were also discussed.

Various issues, including the prioritisation of population groups, reaching out to healthcare workers, cold-chain infrastructure augmentation, adding vaccinators and tech platform for vaccine roll-out were also discussed in the meeting, PM Modi said.

Earlier in the day, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said a digital platform used in the Universal Immunisation Programme was being repurposed to digitally track movement of stocks of Covid-19 vaccines, once available, and also trace those who will receive the shots thus ensuring last-mile vaccine delivery.

The review meeting comes a day after Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said the vaccine manufacturer will likely apply to India’s top drug regulator next month for emergency approval for limited use of ‘Covishield’ on frontline workers and the elderly, and that the vaccine, when approved, could cost between Rs 500 and Rs 600 in the private market for the general public.

Covishield, which is being manufactured by SII under an agreement with Oxford-AstraZeneca, is the frontrunner in India’s own race to find a vaccine to defeat the novel coronavirus.

Global firms Pfizer and Moderna have also released interim results of the late-stage trial of their mRNA vaccine candidates for Covid-19, indicating an efficacy rate of 95 per cent in volunteers without prior Covid-19 infection However, doses of these vaccines will not be available in quantities that can fulfil India’s immediate requirement. The government has, meanwhile, pinned its hopes on the five vaccine candidates that are being clinically tested here.

“Currently, phase-3 of vaccine candidate tested by Serum Institute is almost complete and the follow-up is currently under way. Bharat Biotech has just begun the phase-3 trials; Zydus Cadila has completed phase-2 trials, and Russian Sputnik -V being tested in collaboration with Dr Reddy will begin phase two or three next week. Biological E is conducting an early phase 1-2 trial,” Dr V K Paul, member, NITI Aayog had said.

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