The centre on Tuesday, January 12, said that states will not have the option to choose which vaccine to administer to its priority groups, citing limited doses of COVID vaccines available initially. The choice of vaccine to be administered remains with the government, even as COVID-19 vaccination remains voluntary in India, centre said.
The two vaccines available as India ramps up measures to start its COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 are Pune-based Serum Institute of India's 'Covishield' and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd's 'Covaxin'. Both vaccine candidates have got the approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) although Covaxin is still in Phase 3 trials.
"As we speak 54.72 lakh doses have been received at the points; and 100 per cent doses, which is 1.1 crore from SII and 55 lakh from Bharat Biotech, will reach by January 14," Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.
"Across the world, in many countries, multiple vaccine candidates are being administered. No such option is still available to the beneficiary (to choose a vaccine)," the Health Secretary said, while answering a question on whether states or priority-group beneficiaries will get the option to choose between the two vaccines.
Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech is offering 16.5 lakh doses to the centre for free, The Indian Express reported.
"In India, 110 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine are being procured from Serum Institute at the cost of Rs 200 per dose, and 55 lakh doses of Covaxin are being procured from Bharat Biotech," Bhushan said.
"The cost of 38.5 lakh doses of Covaxin is Rs 295 per dose, and they are providing 16.5 lakh doses free of cost to the central government as a special gesture. Hence, the cost of Covaxin is Rs 206 per dose," Bhushan said.
A state-level regional vaccine store has been set up in each state, where the doses will reach at least two days before the rollout, Bhushan said. "However, a few bigger states and UTs have more than two regional stores – Uttar Pradesh has 9, Madhya Pradesh 4, Gujarat 4, Kerala 3, Karnataka 2, Rajasthan 2, and Jammu & Kashmir 2," the minister said.
"The price at which the government is procuring the vaccines is significantly lower than the current prices globally," he asserted.
"The price of a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which has got emergency use authorisation in many countries, is Rs 1,431; here were are not including the overhead cost and taxes as that information is not available in public domain. The cost of a single dose of Moderna's vaccine is in the range of Rs 2,348 to 2,715; the Chinese vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech cost Rs 5,650 and Rs 1,027 per dose respectively. The per dose cost of Sputnik V and the vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is Rs 734," he said.
Dr Balram Bhargava, Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that India will administer two doses, four weeks apart.
"Currently, the recommendations are very clear that two doses will be given at day 0 and 28. There is some literature that you can give [the second dose] up to six weeks [after the first dose]. Some countries are discussing if it can be given at a bigger gap. But at the moment we would like to stick to 4 weeks," Dr Bhargava said.
"The most important thing is that there is a gap of 28 days between two doses, and it is only after 14 days after the second dose that effectiveness begins. Therefore, states must highlight this aspect and that Covid appropriate behaviour is a must," Bhushan said.