New Delhi: State governments have been urged to take a national approach towards engaging with companies and deciding the criteria for COVID-19 vaccination, the Centre said on Tuesday, asserting that in order to deliver the vaccine to priority groups, there is no problem in terms of resources. Responding to a question over theBJP‘s election manifesto promising free coronavirus vaccine for everyone in Bihar, Dr V K Paul,NITI Aayogmember (Health), who also headsthe National Task Forceon COVID-19, at a press briefing said that resources will not be an issue in ensuring access to vaccines as and when it becomes available.
“Overall we can say with responsibility that resources will not be an issue in ensuring access to vaccines. We have requested state governments to wait for overall picture to become clear and to take a national approach towards engaging the companies and deciding the criteria for vaccination. The state governments have made these statements and they should be respected,” Paul said.
The access to vaccine will be in such a way that if the vaccine supply is not unlimited, prioritisation has to be done and prioritisation principles will be determined based on the availability of the vaccine and those principles are being discussed, he said.
From the efforts and discussions in the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration of the Union government, Paul said the vaccine scenario is dynamic and the approach is being fine-tuned and blueprints and preparations are being made and “in order to deliver the vaccine to priority groups, to the extent that we can foresee, there is absolutely no problem in terms of resources”.
Giving an update on the three COVID-19 vaccine candidates which are presently in different stages of clinical trials in India, ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava saidBharat Biotech‘s Covaxin has got approval for phase III trials and will start the trials soon while Cadila is also progressing with phase-II trials .
“Serum Institute of India is in the process of completing phase 2B and 3 trials but they also have phase 3 trials ongoing in Brazil, South Africa and the US,” the Indian Council of Medical Research DG said.
Besides, there are four or five more candidates which are in the pre-clinical evaluation and they will be rolled out in the phase I and II as and when they are ready, he said.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said a subgroup in the national expert committee is looking at the requirements of the cold chain. Presently, facilities of cold chain in over 28,000 locations are being used under the Universal Immunisation Programme and the work is going on how they can be enhanced and their capacity can be augmented.
In response to a question on whether children would be enrolled as volunteers for vaccine trials, Paul said there is a general dictum for trials of vaccines and drugs as per which their safety and efficacy is established in adult before their being tried on children (unless the vaccines are for children only), pregnant women or old age people.