The Centre on Thursday announced that it has finalised a deal with Hyderabad-based Biological-E to reserve 30 crore coronavirus vaccine doses. The vaccine, which is currently undergoing phase 3 clinical trials, is likely to be available in the next few months, the health ministry said in a statement.
The health ministry will make an advance payment of Rs 1,500 crore to the vaccine manufacturer. This will be the second indigenous vaccine to be used in the country after Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. These doses will be manufactured and stockpiled by Biological-E from August to December 2021.
“The proposal of Biological-E was examined and recommended for approval after due diligence by National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19,” the ministry said.
The statement said that company was given over Rs 100 crore in financial assistance by the Department of Biotechnology, which has also partnered with it to conduct various studies. This is part of the government’s mission to support five to six new vaccine candidates, it added.
The announcement comes at a time when the Narendra Modi government is trying to allay concerns about shortages of vaccine and ward off allegations of mishandling of the inoculation drive. Health experts have warned that India needs to increase its current pace of vaccination to reduce the impact of subsequent waves of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the drug regulator waived the requirement to conduct post-launch bridging trials for foreign-made coronavirus vaccines, in a move that is expected to bolster the availability of shots. The decisions came in the backdrop of pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Cipla putting forth such demands during negotiations to supply imported vaccines to India.
Russia’s Sputnik V is the third vaccine to receive emergency-use authorisation in India after the Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. The Centre has repeatedly said that vaccines from more manufacturers are in the pipeline and that it expects to inoculate the country’s entire population by the end of 2020.