A COVID working group of NTAGI will review this week data of Serum Institute of India’s (SII) anti-coronavirus jab Covovax to decide whether it can be included in the national COVID-19 vaccination programme for inoculating those aged 12 years and above, official sources said on Wednesday.
India’s drug regulator had approved Covovax for restricted use in emergency situations in adults on December 28 and in the 12 to 17 years age group subject to certain conditions on March 9.
Director (Government and Regulatory Affairs) at SII Prakash Kumar Singh recently had written to the health ministry urging it to include Covovax in the national COVID-19 vaccination drive for 12 years and above.
Singh stated that the Pune-based firm wants to provide Covovax to private hospitals at Rs 900 per dose plus GST and is also waiting for directions to supply the vaccine to the Centre but has not mentioned the price.
"The COVID-19 working group of the NTAGI is set to meet on April 1 and review the data of Covovax to decide whether it can be included in the national COVID-19 vaccination programme for inoculating those aged 12 years and above this week,” an official source said.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
In a letter to Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Singh was learnt to have said that private companies, educational institutes, social organisations, central government organisations and public sector undertakings are making requests for Covovax to inoculate their staffers, families and children.
"Under the visionary leadership of our CEO Adar C Poonawalla, we have developed, manufactured and obtained emergency use authorisation from our national regulatory authority for one more world-class COVID-19 vaccine Covovax for 18 years and above on December 28, and for children in the age group of 12 to 17 years on March 9, 2022,” an official source had quoted Singh as having said in the letter.
The country began inoculating children aged 12-14 from March 16.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 last year with healthcare workers getting inoculated in the first phase.
Vaccination of frontline workers started from February 2 last year.
The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced on March 1 last year for people over 60 years of age and those aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
India launched vaccination for all people aged more than 45 years from April 1 last year.
The government then decided to expand its vaccination drive by allowing everyone above 18 years of age to be inoculated against the viral disease from May 1 last year.
The next phase of vaccination commenced from January 3 for adolescents in the age group of 15-18 years.India began administering precaution doses of vaccines to healthcare and frontline workers and those aged 60 and above with comorbidities from January 10.