NEW DELHI: The Serum Institute of India’s Covishield is likely to be first shot used in India’s vaccine drive against Covid-19, with the Drugs Controller General of India on Sunday formally waving the green flag for its use, along with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Vaccination is likely to be launched simultaneously in most states that were part of the January 2 dry run, even as the final contours are being worked out. DCGI V G Somani gave emergency use approval for SII, which is making Covishield developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, which has to fulfil additional conditionalities. For Covaxin, the authorisation is in clinical-trial mode, which means that monitoring of recipients will be in the same mode as those taking the trial.
Though it can be used, Covaxin may be introduced in the vaccination programme a little later. SII and Bharat Biotech have speeded up manufacture of the vaccines and have a substantial stockpile.
For the rollout of the vaccine, the government is likely to follow an election-like process and identify session sites in particular districts in almost all states on particular dates. Depending on vaccine availability, beneficiaries will be called for inoculation on specified dates in a phased manner.
“Limited number of beneficiaries may be inoculated during the first few days on each of the identified sites depending on vaccine availability, much like the way elections are conducted,” an official told TOI.
The government has already registered over 75 lakh priority beneficiaries on Co-WIN — the IT platform developed by the Centre to implement the mega vaccination drive. On Saturday, nationwide vaccination dry runs were conducted at 286 session sites across 125 districts.
The government is likely to place a formal supply order with Serum Institute of India by Monday in order to facilitate mobilisation of vaccines to cold chain hubs, another senior official said. The vaccines will be further distributed to particular districts as per the final plan for vaccine administration.
While the plan is to inoculate 30 crore “priority population” with anti-Covid vaccine by July, the government aims to vaccinate the first three crore, including healthcare and frontline workers, over next two months and vaccination process is likely to pick up pace with simultaneous inoculation of the over-50 population and those who are younger but have serious comorbidities. Since in-principle approvals for SII were in place with the government expecting it to be the first vaccine in the country, it is expected to be easier for the government to procure immediate supplies of Covishield, though soon supplies of Covaxin may follow, an official said.
According to sources, the first order is likely to be for 10 crore doses that will be funded through the PM Care. “SII has offered a price of Rs 225-250 per dose for the first tranche, whereas Bharat Biotech has offered Rs 350. For the next lot, the prices may vary,” a source said.