India will likely see the first shots against Covid-19 administered outside clinical trials by January 14. Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the ministry is prepared to roll out the vaccine within 10 days from date of emergency use authorisation but added that the final decision lies with the government.
Giving more details on first phase of the vaccination drive, Bhushan said healthcare workers and frontline workers need not register themselves as their database has been populated on the Co-WIN vaccine delivery management system in bulk. "Based on the feedback of dry run, the health ministry is ready to introduce Covid-19 vaccine within 10 days from date of emergency use authorisation," he said at a press conference.
The country's drugs regulator had on Sunday granted restricted emergency use approval to Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield and to indigenously developed Covaxin of Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech.
Bhushan said the Union government has not banned the export of any Covid-19 vaccine. "The Union government has not banned the export of any one of the Covid-19 vaccines and this should be absolutely clear. When I say Union government, it means there are three ministries --- Ministry of Health, Ministry of Commerce, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade with the Ministry of Commerce and Directorate General of Foreign Trade -- which can initiate, in a hypothetical scenario, such an action," he said.
"But none of them have taken any such action. Therefore, our request to our media friends would be that we should be on guard when such misinformation is sought to be spread," Bhushan added.
The Union health secretary also highlighted two points from a joint statement issued by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech. "The statement mentions two important elements. It says that vaccines are a global public health good. They also say that we communicate our joint pledge to provide global access for our Covid-19 vaccines. That means neither the Union government nor the vaccine manufacturers are talking of any ban on the export of vaccines," he said.
Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech on Tuesday said they will work together to develop, manufacture and supply the COVID-19 vaccines in India and globally.
In a joint statement on behalf of the two companies, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla and Bharat Biotech Chairman and Managing Director Krishna Ella announced their combined intent to develop, manufacture and supply the Covid-19 vaccines for India and the world. They noted that the most important task in front of them was saving lives and livelihoods in India and globally.
Addressing the press meet along with Bhushan, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul said an optimistic scenario is emerging with the pandemic situation in India consistently improving in terms of active cases and new deaths declining. "Let's hope this trend will continue. In terms of the new UK mutant issue, this mutation has entered this country and 71 have been isolated which shows our capacity to mount that kind of a scientific investigation. But at the same time, we have not seen the emergence of any untoward cluster in the country as of now which is reassuring so far," Paul said.
On the two vaccines that have been granted approval for restricted emergency use by the DCGI, Paul reiterated that in granting permission and authorisation, all scientific and statutory requirements have been met and regulatory norms followed.