Storage of Pfizer's COVID vaccine challenge for most nations; India examining possibilities: Govt
New Delhi, Nov 17: The cold-chain requirement for the anti-coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by Pfizer at a temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius poses a big challenge, but the government is examining the possibilities if at all the vaccine has to be obtained by India, it said on Tuesday.
The government further said a national scheme on COVID-19 vaccine distribution is in its final stages of preparation.
At a press briefing, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul, who also heads the National Task Force on COVID-19, said sufficient doses of the vaccine, as required for the Indian population, will not be available, but the government is looking at the possibilities and will work out a strategy for its procurement and distribution in case it gets the regulatory approvals. Paul, however, reminded that the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine in the country might take some months.
"The arrangement of cold-chains for storing the vaccine developed by Pfizer at a low temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius is a big challenge and it will not be easy for any nation. But then, if at all it has to be obtained, we are examining what we need to do...and will work out a strategy," he said.
As for both the vaccine candidates of Moderna and Pfizer, Paul said, "We are watching the developments. They have announced the preliminary results and have not got the regulatory approvals."
The official expressed hope on the success of the five vaccines that are under different phases of trial in the country. The doses of these vaccines will be available in sufficient numbers. Giving an update, he said the phase-3 trial of the Oxford vaccine of the Serum Institute is almost near completion, while the phase-3 clinical trial of the indigenously-developed vaccine candidate of the Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has already started. Another indigenously-developed vaccine candidate of the Zydus Cadila has completed the phase-2 clinical trial, Paul said.
Dr Reddy's Laboratories will soon start the combined phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, in India. Also, the Biological E Limited has started early phase 1 and 2 human trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE last week said their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19. Moderna on Monday said the independent National Institutes of Health-appointed Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) for the Phase 3 study of mRNA-1273, its vaccine candidate against COVID-19, found it to have an efficacy of 94.5 per cent.
Asked if the government is working on a draft scheme on COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said one of the mandates of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 is to have a time-bound scheme to ensure the fulfilment of the commitment that the prime minister made to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, where he said the citizens will be inoculated as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
"A document in this regard is in its final stages of preparation. We have shared it with the state governments and have taken their inputs. We are also in the process of finalising the database of the priority population groups, who will be administered the vaccine if and when it becomes available, and there also, we are in collaboration with the states and other central ministries," he said.