Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon hold virtual meetings with chief ministers and other representatives of states and union territories on Tuesday to discuss the vaccine distribution strategy and take stock of the Covid-19 situation as some parts of the country report fresh spikes.
PM Modi is expected to hold the two back to back meetings — one with eight states that have the highest caseload and another with states and UTs to discuss the vaccine distribution strategy, sources confirmed to news agency PTI.
The development comes at a time when Covid-19 cases are surging in some states like Delhi and Maharashtra. While the national daily Covid-19 case count has remained below 50,000 for a while now, the situation seems to be getting serious at several urban centres, forcing curfews in some cities.
With the fresh rise in cases, the Centre is eagerly exploring modalities of emergency authorisation and usage of Covid-19 vaccines.
It may be noted that the central government has been putting in place measures for the quick and effective distraction of the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
At the moment, five vaccine candidates are in advanced stages of development in India, four of which are in Phase II/III trials.
The government is currently awaiting pending trails and regular licensure. The issue of advance purchase completion for vaccines, including pricing, has also been discussed in a recent meeting attended by the Niti Aayog member Vinod Paul, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the government K Vijay Raghavan and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.
“It was decided that the PMO-constituted Vaccine Task Force (VTF) will lay down the principles for emergency use authorisation while the National Expert Group On Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) should take the lead in setting the principles for advance market commitment, including vaccine pricing,” a source confirmed to news agency PTI.
The development comes days after Pfizer sought emergency use authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine from US regulators. Moderna, another US-based biotechnology company, also intends to apply for the same with the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA). Both the vaccines, developed using similar technology, have shown over 90 per cent efficacy.
Soon, an urgent meeting of the vaccine task force (VTF) with experts will be concerned to review the scientific status of vaccines globally and how and when the decision on the emergency authorisation of vaccines should be taken.
As per the PTI report, the terms of references for two major bodies dealing with vaccine introduction — the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and the Central Drug Standards and Control Organisation (CDSCO) — will be set and their roles clearly defined for authorisation and emergency authorisation.
Role of air cargo, airports
It has also come to light that major Indian airports will provide flexible slots and separate temperature-controlled zones for transportation of Covid-19 vaccines, which are likely to be available in India early next year.
Moreover, Air cargo operators will also run multiple flights in a short time span to transport the vaccines.
A PTI report indicated that the Indian government is in touch with Modern, Pfizer, Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila over the progress of clinical trials of each of the vaccine candidates.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, which is the largest pharma gateway in the country, will provide flexible slot allocation for ad hoc freighter operations for transportation of Covid-19 vaccines, a spokesperson for the airport told the news agency.
It is worth mentioning that a slot is a date and time at which an aircraft is permitted to depart or arrive at an airport. Also, major airlines like IndiGo and Air India may be part of the plan to ship Covid-19 vaccines to India.
The airport will provide round the clock green channel with dedicated truck docks, X-Ray machine, ULD (unit load device) buildup workstations, said the spokesperson and added that key account managers will be deployed for round the clock monitoring of vaccine operations.
On November 19, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said that the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine should be available for healthcare workers and elderly people in India around February 2021 and by April for the general public in India.