The union health ministry revealed on Tuesday that the Centre is in dialogue with all vaccine manufacturers including foreign manufacturers about a Coronavirus vaccine. The ministry revealed it in a press conference when asked whether India is considering tie-up with US-based pharma company Pfizer Inc for their Covid vaccine candidate."The national expert group on Covid vaccine administration is in dialogue with all vaccine manufacturers including domestic and foreign manufacturers. During this dialogue, we look at the status of development of their vaccines and also at regulatory approvals where have they progressed," stated union health secretary Rakesh Bhushan.Speaking on the infrastructure to support the storage and carriage of Covid vaccines, Bhushan informed that the Centre is also engaged in discussion regarding logistical requirements of the vaccines if they are required to be stored at temperatures as low as minus 90 degrees."We are in a position to not only augment and strengthen but also add to our cold chain capabilities. However, we currently don't have those numbers to share. Any such large scale immunisation would require a substantial increase in cold chain points but also increase in cold chain equipment including walk-in coolers, deep freezers and refrigerated vans," he added.
Last week, the union health ministry had informed that the country has more than 28,000 cold chain points, 700-plus refrigerator vans and more than 70,000 vaccinators to assist in the vaccine administration. "We have already utilised them under the universal immunisation programme and would be used in administration of COVID vaccination as well," Bhushan had stated earlier.A day ago, Pfizer Inc and German biotech company BioNTech had announced that their Covid vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, demonstrated efficacy of 90% in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis.The vaccine manufacturer had also stated that they expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.Many vaccine candidates are already in final-stage testing across the world for Covid-19. An experimental vaccine developed by Britain's AstraZeneca is among the most advanced ones, and Britain expects to roll it out in late December or early 2021.AstraZeneca's vaccine, originally developed by the Oxford University, is undergoing trials in India in partnership with Serum Institute of India.Other late-stage vaccines are developed by Moderna Inc, Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech SE, and Johnson & Johnson.Last week, a Reuters report quoting a senior Indian government official said India's own Bharat Biotech, a private company that is developing COVAXIN with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), could make available its vaccine by February.