India’s immunization plan will prioritize health workers, frontline workers, and people over 50 or vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
India’s Ministry of Health has announced that some COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be licensed in the coming weeks and presented an initial plan to vaccinate 300 million people.
Health officials said on Tuesday that three vaccine companies have requested early approval for emergency use in India: the Serum Institute of India, which has been licensed to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine, Pfizer Inc and Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech.
“Some of them could be licensed in the coming weeks,” Federal Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.
India says its initial immunization plan revolves around three priority groups: 10 million healthcare workers, 20 million frontline workers such as police and military, and 270 million other elderly people over 50 or with diseases that make them more vulnerable to COVID. Effects of 19.
The Ministry of Health previously set a target of August 2021 for the vaccination of these people.
The population of India is almost 1.4 billion people.
Bhushan said India will build on its existing vaccination programs, which are among the largest in the world. Each year, India immunizes 26 million infants and 30 million pregnant women with 300 million doses of the vaccine.
But there are challenges. Even before the pandemic, childhood immunization coverage in India was uneven. It is lowest among indigenous communities in India, where only 56% of newborns are vaccinated.
Health officials should also ensure that the focus on coronavirus vaccines does not disrupt existing vaccination programs. This means that more people need to be trained to administer vaccines.
Vaccinating adults will also require different medical staff instead of pediatricians and may face greater resistance to injections.
“I am concerned that we have never seen an adult vaccination before,” said Dr Gagandeep Kang, infectious disease expert at Christian Medical College in Vellore in southern India.
Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has applied for an emergency use license for the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine based on phase three trials in India and other countries, health officials said at a press conference.
Bharat Biotech has applied for a license for its investigational inactivated virus vaccine without completing phase three trials, they said.
Under India’s rules for expedited vaccine approval, a company can get a license if regulators are “happy with the benefit / risk ratio,” said Dr Balram Bhargava, head of the Indian Council for Medical Research.
Pfizer has applied for permission to import its investigational mRNA vaccine for sale and distribution without clinical trials in India, officials said.
The company said in a statement that it would supply the vaccine “only through government contracts based on agreements with the respective government authorities” after approval.
Its vaccine has to be stored at very cold temperatures, which India’s existing infrastructure is unlikely to provide.