New Delhi: India will be deploying its vast election machinery to administer 60 crore doses in the next 6 to 8 months using standard cold chain systems.
The reason for using conventional cold storage is that the vaccines of four companies lined up for India – Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadila and Russian Sputnik V – need normal cold chain unlike Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines.
VK Paul, head of the group of experts on vaccine administration for COVID-19, told Reuters the first approvals are expected “very soon”.
Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, is stockpiling Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Over 100 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V will be manufactured at Indian pharma company Hetero’s plant.
The pricing has not been finalized but Paul said “the government will give a fair and reasonable price” to manufacturers.
About Pfizer’s ultra-cold storage requirement, Paul said, ”In a theoretical scenario, where there is no vaccine with conventional cold chain requirement, minus 70 degrees Celsius capacities will have to be created, and we will do so”.
Pfizer has already applied for emergency use in India.
”We would like to work with them (Moderna) to make that vaccine available in India, and (ensure) that vaccine is also manufactured in India – for us and for other countries. This is the call we have given to Pfizer also and we are in touch with them as well,” Paul added.
India has the world’s second highest caseload of COVID-19 after the US.
The government plans to administer the vaccine to 30 crore people in the 1st phase. This would include 26 crore above the age of 50 years, 3 crore health workers and around 1 crore below the age of 50 with serious co-morbidities.
”The way it looks as of now, optimistically, it appears possible to cover the above population of 300 million in six to eight months’ time,” Paul predicted.