Dr Vinod Paul, member of the NITI Aayog and chairman of the government’s empowered group on Covid management, said relaxation of norms will let the country fast-track greenlighting of foreign-made vaccines that have been granted emergency-use approvals in other countries.
He added that production of both Covaxin and Covishield is also being scaled up.
“We are expecting current production levels of Covaxin and Covishield to be scaled up, as has been committed by their manufacturers (Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute). We also expect Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to seek Indian licence as soon as possible,” Dr Paul said.
The Russian-made Sputnik-V vaccine is also likely to be available in India after May.
Some of these foreign-made vaccines need very low storage temperatures – from -25°C to -70°C. Dr Paul said, depending on approvals, some of these shots can be deployed in urban centres.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration has recommended that vaccines for Covid-19, that have been developed and manufactured in foreign countries (and added to the WHO’s emergency-use listing), may be granted approvals in India. These approvals will be accompanied by relevant checks.
“The first 100 beneficiaries of these foreign vaccines will be assessed for a week for safety outcomes, before they are rolled out as part of the larger immunization programme in the country,” Dr Paul said.
The addition of more vaccines to India’s basket will let the government cover more age groups. “Better the availability, the more age groups we can cover. The government is looking to first cover the 45-plus group and then, depending on availability, expand the drive to cover others, which has been the demand of many states,” he said.
He added that while more Covishield doses are expected, the supply of Covaxin will see considerable improvement in the future following production approvals to public sector units.