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Govt inks deal for 30 cr doses of 2nd desi covid vaccines

Friday, 04 June 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

Biological-E vax under ph-3 trials, 1-2 ph results promising: Min

The Government has inked a deal for purchase of 30 crore anti-Covid-19 vaccines from Hyderabad-based pharma firm Biological-E and has put down an advance of Rs 1,500 crore, a first of its kind move  given that the vaccine is still undergoing phase-3 clinical trials before approvals can be given.

The Union Health Ministry will make the advance payment soon to the company for what will be the second made-in-India vaccine to be used in the country after Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

The move comes a day after the Centre was slammed by the Apex Court which had criticised it for “arbitrary and irrational” vaccine rollout that has left millions of people vulnerable to the Covid disease.

“The arrangement with M/s Biological-E is part of the wider endeavour of the Government of India to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in Research & Development (R&D) and also financial support,” said the Union Health Ministry in a statement here.

Biological-E’s vaccine is currently in Phase-3 clinical trials after showing promising results in Phase 1 and 2, the statement said.

Currently, the Government has been inoculating people with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced locally at the Serum Institute of India (SII), Covaxin made by local firm Bharat Biotech, and has begun rolling out Russia’s Sputnik V.

But supplies are running low after the Government opened vaccinations to adults of all ages last month. Some vaccination centres have had to close down, prompting criticism from the Supreme Court about a lack of proper planning.

The new vaccine arrangement is “part of the wider endeavour of the Government to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers” by providing them support in research and development and costs, the statement added.

The Government said Biological-E’s shot was given Rs 100 crore in financial assistance by the Department of Biotechnology, which also partnered with the company to conduct various studies.

This is part of the Government’s mission to support five or six new COVID-19 vaccine candidates, said the statement.

While the Centre is giving free vaccines to the elderly and front-line workers, it left it to State Governments and private hospitals to administer doses to people in the 18-44 age group at a pre-determined price.

“The policy of the central government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first two phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination… is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational,” the Supreme Court had said. Younger people were just as vulnerable, as the second wave of infections had shown, the court said.

The apex court asked the Government to review its vaccination policy, produce a roadmap, and said the court would not stand by when citizens’ constitutional rights were at risk.

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