India has administered over 176 crore doses of the COVID vaccine since the COVID-19 vaccine was launched in the country on January 16, 2021. However, the vaccination program has largely been dominated by Serum Institute of India's Oxford- AstraZeneca Covishield followed by Bharat Biotech' s Covaxin and few people choosing Russia's Sputnik.
These vaccines are just three of the eight COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Indian Central Drugs Standard and Control Organisation. Despite other vaccines receiving emergency use authorisation in the country, they are not a part of the country's vaccination programme. These vaccines have also not been listed on CoWin which is the central platform for COVID vaccination.
In May 2021, the former Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had estimated that India would have 216 vaccine crore doses available for the months of November and December. He suggested this estimate expecting doses of Zydus Cadila's Zycov-D, Johnson and Johnson's one dose vaccine, Biological E's Corbevax and the mRNA vaccine created by Gennova Pharmaceuticals. Even though some of these received approval and even had doses ready they were not incorporated into the national vaccination programme.
While the Ministry has now sent vials of Zycov-D's vaccine to Bihar, it intends to use Corbevax in the younger population. Similarly, Covovax - the vaccine produced by Novovax and being manufactured by Serum Institute of India is still under trials and being administered to people between the ages of 2-6.
Where Are The Other Approved Vaccines?
Johnson and Johnson received emergency use approval for its one-dose adenoviral COVID vaccine back in April. The company was supposed to distribute its vaccines with the help of Biological E. However, concerns about the vaccine leading to adverse reactions and reduced uptake of the vaccine were reported across the world. At one point, the company even stopped production of its vaccine in the US after reports of contamination were raised in a few batches. In November 2021, the company released a statement that they had not kept any deadlines for India and were looking forward to their partnership with Biological E.
Moderna is the other foreign vaccine that received approval but is not a part of the COVID vaccine schedule. Indian Pharmaceutical Cipla received emergency use authorisation to import the vaccine and distribute it within the country. The government, however, did not place any orders and was not too keen to give into the indemnity that Moderna as well as Pfizer were asking for. As soon as the production capacity of both Covishield and Covaxin- the vaccines being produced in India increased, the government decided it did not need to purchase the international mRNA vaccines.
While Zycov-D, the DNA plasmid vaccine received approval in September, its first batch was just recently sent to the state of Bihar for use. The three-dose vaccine which is to be administered through a jet injector and does not use any needles has many available doses but is still not introduced into the market. Sharvil Patel, the MD of Zydus Cadila has repeatedly mentioned that the company is ready to launch their vaccines.
Covovax and Corbevax which received emergency use approval in December 2021 are also not available in the market.
Corbevax is being produced by Biological E with technology transfer from Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development (Texas Children's CVD) and Baylor College of Medicine (Baylor) in Houston, Texas. It has received emergency use approval for administration to 12–15-year aged children.
Covovax produced by American Novovax in collaboration with Serum Institute of India is currently being administered to children between 2-6 years of age under clinical trials. It is likely that it will be given to the younger age group.
Will The Russia-Ukraine Conflict Affect Sputnik In India?
Gamaleya Institute's Sputnik V vaccine is being manufactured by Hyderabad-based Dr.Reddy's Laboratories. The pharmaceutical has its outposts in Russia. With the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, questions have risen whether that would affect Sputnik's production.
BOOM has written to Dr. Reddy's and is waiting to hear from them. Meanwhile, a spokesperson told the newspaper, the Hindu, that the conflict would not create issues for the Sputnik and Sputnik Lite- the one dose vaccine in India. "Earlier, we used to import, but now we have the capacity to manufacture the vaccine in India. The drug substance used to make the vaccine is not imported."