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Covid vaccine production and availability: What we know so far

So far, 15.5 crore doses have been administered since January and the central and state governments along with the private sector aim to get 30 crore more doses in three months until July.

May 05, 2021 / 06:06 PM IST

India is expected to receive more than 45 crore doses of vaccines by July, enough to fully vaccinate about a quarter of the country’s adult population with both the mandatory doses. Imported stocks of the Sputnik V vaccine and some under-development vaccines that may get approval soon will add to these numbers.

So far, 15.5 crore doses have been administered since January—when they were made available—and the central and state governments along with the private sector aim to get 30 crore more doses in three months until July. These estimates are based on the projected availability of stocks of Covishield (developed by Serum Institute of India and Covaxin (Bharat Biotech).

This could mean significant coverage of people of 60+ age and health care and frontline workers with both doses by the end of July and accelerated coverage of the 45+ age group. The 18-44 age group can however expect only a modest vaccination coverage until July.

What Serum Said

Serum Institute on Monday said it had total orders of 26 crore doses from the government of India since the vaccination started in January, and it had supplied 15 crore such doses already as on date. The central government in a statement said it expected 11 crore doses from Serum in May, June and July. As per data available, 14.2 crore doses of Covishield have been already administered to people and another 78 lakh are in stock with the state governments or in pipeline from the Centre to various states.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Serum also said it was committed to supply 11 crore doses in the second channel to state governments and private hospitals in “the next few months”. Orders of nearly 35 crore doses have accumulated at Serum from states and private hospitals, but it can only deliver about 11 crore of such doses given its present capacity to produce about 7 crore doses a month, per sources. The company hopes to increase to 10 crore doses by July, they said.

This would mean about 22-23 crore doses in three months—and Serum is committing 11 crore out of them to Centre and 11 crore more to the states and private hospitals. All this would add up to Serum supplying a total of around 37 crore doses (15 crore supplied already and 22 crore in the pipeline) since inception until July.

What About Bharat Biotech

Another 7.5 crore doses are expected by the Centre from the other vaccine-maker Bharat Biotech by July since inception, taking the total vaccine stocks between January and July to almost 45 crore. Bharat Biotech has supplied nearly 1.5 crore Covaxin vaccines so far out and the central government is expecting more than 6 crore doses of Covaxin between May and July as the Hyderbad-based company is increasing its monthly production to 2 crore doses from May.

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The Centre said an order of 5 crore vaccines was placed with Bharat Biotech on April 28 for supplies during May, June and July and 1.1 crore vaccines are pending from a previous order placed in March.

Some states have also placed orders with Bharat Biotech under the second channel but those orders are not believed to be very substantive and only about 1-2 crore vaccines could be delivered possibly to the second channel until July because of the higher price being charged by Bharat Biotech at Rs 400 compared with the Rs 300 per dose by Serum from states. Take into account the smaller production capacity of Bharat Biotech.

All this would take India’s vaccine stock by July well over 45 crore vaccines since inception. Additional stocks being imported of Sputnik V, the possibility of US sending in Astrazeneca supplies to India and some other vaccine candidates under trial getting approval by July may mean the total vaccine availability may cross 50 crore, according to government sources.
Aman Sharma is a writer at News18
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