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Don't agree with Rs 80,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in India: Health Ministry on Poonawalla's calculation

"We have calculated the amount required in the meetings and currently, that amount is available with the government,” said Health Ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. Serum Insititute of India chief executive Adar Poonawalla had tweeted on September 26 the estimated amount he thought would be required.

September 30, 2020 / 07:40 PM IST

The Indian government said on September 29 that it does not agree with the Rs 80,000 crore asked by Serum Institute of India chief executive Adar Poonawalla for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine in India.

Health Ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan was responding to a question tweeted by Poonawalla, who on September 26 asked if the government will have "Rs 80,000 crore available" over the next one year, which is the amount, according to him, needed to buy and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine across the country.

"Quick question; will the government of India have 80,000 crores available, over the next one year? Because that’s what @MoHFW_INDIA needs, to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. This is the next concerning challenge we need to tackle,” Poonawalla had tweeted.

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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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Bhushan said, "We do not agree by the calculation of Rs 80,000 crore. The government has made a national committee on vaccine experts and five meetings have taken place till now.”

Giving more details, the health secretary added, "In these meetings, we have mulled over the process of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and the amount required for it in terms of prioritisation of population and the staggered immunisation for this prioritisation."

"We have calculated the amount required in the meetings and currently, that amount is available with the government,” said Bhushan.

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(With inputs from PTI)
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