Union minister of health and family welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan has announced that six more vaccines against Covid-19 will be introduced soon.
“Six to eight months ago, lack of testing was an issue. Today, we are carrying out over 1 million Covid-19 tests per day. And more than half a dozen vaccine are coming,” he said after visiting the new campus of National Institute for Research in Environment Health (NIREH), AIIMS-Bhopal, and CSIR-AMPRI on Saturday.
Russia’s Sputnik vaccine seems to be next in line. Phase-3 trials, carried out by its Indian partner Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, are over, and it’s awaiting Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) approval.
Sputnik is “one of the world’s top three coronavirus vaccines in terms of the number of approvals issued by government regulators.
Recently, The Lancet medical journal showed the Russian vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as US and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals.
In September 2020, Dr. Reddy’s and Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) entered into a partnership to conduct the clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine and the rights for distribution in India.
Currently, two vaccines are available to the public — Covishield, made by Serum Institute of India, which has partnered with AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, being indigenously developed by Bharat Biotech.
India launched its vaccination drive on 16 January for healthcare workers and frontline staff. A sanitation worker became the first Indian to receive the vaccine.
From March 1, the eligibility criteria expanded to include people over 60 and those who are between 45 and 59 but have other illnesses.
Vaccines come with side effects for some people.
India has a 34-year-old surveillance programme for monitoring such “adverse events” following immunisation. Experts say a failure to transparently report adverse effects could easily lead to fear-mongering around vaccines.