Govt Exploring Various Options on Financing Covid-19 Vaccine Development, Says Health Secretary
Advanced market commitments or providing financial help to firms for conducting research and development and clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine are options that are under active consideration, the Centre said on Tuesday while reiterating that sufficient financial resources are available to procure 400-500 million doses of vaccine as and when it becomes available. At a press conference on Tuesday, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that a subgroup under the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 has already mapped the existing cold chain presently being utilised under the government's immunisation programme and has also made a projection of the additional requirement.
"Presently, that group is now engaged with mapping the private sector facilities that could serve the needs of supplementing the cold chain equipment," Bhushan said. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had on October 4 said that the Centre estimates to receive and utilise 40-50 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine covering 20-25 crore people by July next year.
Responding to a question, Bhushan said that various countries are exploring different options of extending financial support. The first option that is being explored is advanced market commitments by different countries and the second one is providing financial help to vaccine manufacturers in terms of conducting their research and development.
"This financial support may not directly come from the government but may come from financial institutions. These are some of the international models which are being explored. "In India, through the department of Biotechnology, direct financial assistance is being provided already to designated vaccine manufacturers to assist in research and development including presently preclinical trials and in future may get extended to clinical trials also. The other options are also on the table and are under active consideration of the government," he said.
Responding to a question on the budget estimated for securing COVID-19 vaccines, Bhushan said the price of single dose or two dose vaccines that are being worked across the globe is still evolving. "We have seen in an extremely dynamic situation till the time the vaccines prove their safety and efficacy whatever figure is being bandied around is just a figure. Any indicative price for a single or double dose vaccine becomes a plausible figure once the vaccine has been able to demonstrate its safety and efficacy and once that is being done by multiple vaccines, then their prices decline drastically," he said.
"I want to reiterate that sufficient financial resources are available with the government to go in for this kind of procurement," he said. Providing an update on ongoing clinical trials of vaccines in India, NITI Aayog member (Health) V K Paul said that phase 2 clinical trials of two indigenously developed vaccines — one by the Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR and the other by Zydus Cadila Ltd — are near completion and results will be available by early November.
The Oxford vaccine candidate is undergoing phase 3 trial which is being conducted by the Serum Institute of India. "Progress is good and by the end of November we may have results. Vaccine preparedness is parallelly being done to reach masses," he said.