Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman today announced-35,000 crore for the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines.
“I have provided ₹ 35,000 crores for COVID-19 vaccine in this year 2021-22. I’m committed to providing further funds if required,” Ms Sitharaman said.
The finance minister added that the investment was part of a dramatically increased health outlay.
“The Budget outlay for health and well-being is ₹ 2.23 lakh crore in 2021-22 as against BE of ₹ 94,452 crores,” she said, adding that this was a rise of 137 per cent.
Ms Sitharaman also reported that two more vaccines against coronavirus would be released.
“Today India has two (coronavirus) vaccines available and has begun safeguarding not just its own citizens but also those of over 100 countries,” Ms Sitharaman told Parliament.
Two vaccines for emergency use in the country were approved by the government last month – Covishield (developed by the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University and manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute) and Covaxin (developed and manufactured by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech).
Covovax and a nasal vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech have applied for trial permission
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute, said last week that he hoped to launch Covovax – developed in collaboration with the American vaccine maker Novavax – by June. The efficacy of Novavax against the initial Covid strain was measured at 95.6 per cent, and 85.6 per cent against the UK version.
The Serum Institute has already applied for permission to produce “upwards of 40-50 million doses per month” for local trials in the region, and Mr Poonawalla said his company can produce “upwards of 40-50 million doses per month.”
Bharat Biotech sought permission earlier this month to perform Phase I trials of a second vaccine, which is administered through the nostrils. Since it is a single-dose drug, this vaccine candidate is important; both Covaxin and Covishield need two intramuscular injections each.
The application is yet to be reviewed by the DCGI (Drug Controller General of India). The first of three sets that are mandatory for any vaccine to be accepted as safe and productive are phase I trials.
On January 16, India launched its vaccination campaign and became the fastest country to vaccinate three million people, the government said on Friday in a series of tweets.
On Sunday, during his monthly radio address, Mann ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the fact and said that just as India’s coronavirus war set an example for the world, the country’s vaccination program was also becoming an example.
Vaccines will be issued to an estimated one crore healthcare employees and about two crore frontline staff in the first process. Persons over 50 and those below, but with related comorbidities dependent on an emerging pandemic situation, would follow them.
According to the Union Health Ministry, the number of health staff vaccinated surpassed the 37.5 lakh mark after 16 days of the countrywide COVID-19 inoculation program.
As on Monday morning, there are fewer than 1.7 lakh active coronavirus cases in the country.