India in talks with all COVID vaccine manufacturers, domestic and foreign: Health ministry


COVID-19 vaccine (AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

A day after Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced more than 90 per cent efficacy of their potential vaccine for the coronavirus, the health ministry on Tuesday said the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 is in conversation with all vaccine manufacturers, including domestic and foreign ones.

Asked if India is considering a tie-up with Pfizer for its COVID-19 vaccine and whether it has the infrastructure for specialised cold chain requirement for this vaccine, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said, “The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 is in talks with all vaccine manufacturers, including domestic and foreign manufacturers.”

“When we continue this dialogue, we not only look at the status of the development of their vaccines, we also look at the regulatory approvals as to where they have progressed and we also engage in a dialogue about the logistical requirements, if such vaccines have to stored at temperatures that may range from two to eight degrees to minus 50 to minus 90 degrees Celsius as well as the doses that will be required to be administered.

“This is a continuously changing, dynamic situation and if and when the regulatory approval comes, we will share it with you,” he said at a press briefing.

Asked whether the vaccine would only be available in the metro cities initially since the Centre is planning an early 2021 roll-out, Bhushan said the government does not make any discrimination between metro cities and non-metro cities.

“Whenever the regulatory approvals for the vaccines are provided, we have a plan that would ensure that the vaccines would be available to all priority population groups, irrespective of the region where they reside,” he clarified.

Responding to another query on vaccine administration, he said, “We are in a position to not only augment and strengthen, but also to add to our cold chain capabilities.”

Any large-scale immunisation would not only require a substantial increase in the number of cold-chain points, but also a huge rise in the number of cold chain equipment, Bhushan added.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE on Monday said their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said.