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The government expects 2.16 billion doses of covid-19 vaccines between August and December, including the jabs that are currently in clinical trials, NITI Aayog member-health Vinod K. Paul said on Thursday.

“In the five months between August and December, over 2 billion doses of vaccine will be made in India for Indians. There should be no doubt that vaccine will be available for all as we move forward," Paul said at a press conference on Thursday, adding that the number will be further boosted by vaccines that could be imported into India from foreign companies like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

He also said that next week Russian vaccine Sputnik V will be made available by the local partner Dr Reddy’s Laboratories following the supply of 150,000 doses on 1 May. Dr Reddy’s is expected to procure more doses later this month.

Paul’s comments come on the back of a shortage in vaccines in various parts of the country, especially at a time when the second wave of covid-19 has led to a record surge in covid-19 cases.

Bharat Biotech International, the manufacturer of Covaxin, has informed the Delhi government in a letter that that it cannot provide additional Covaxin doses to the national capital. With scarcity of doses in the national capital, many vaccination centres across the city have been closed. In other cities too, similar situation is seen, especially for people in the age group 18-44 years, who have turned to social media to express their frustration at not getting slots for inoculation.

Paul said that it was expected that there would be a mismatch in demand and supply initially, as companies scale up their capacity to meet the unprecedented demand.

“We are in that phase when there are finite supplies of covid-19 vaccines. The entire world is in that phase. It takes time to get out of this phase," Paul said, while elaborating that even developed countries like France and Germany with much smaller population are still not able to vaccinate a majority of their population yet.

He added that the priority will be high risk groups—frontline and healthcare workers and people of age 45 years and above—and that the decision to expand the age group to cover all adults this month was taken “in the spirit of federalism" because states had sought greater say in the immunisation drive.

Apart from the expectation of 2.16 billion doses between August and December, India is also expected to get over 320 million doses of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Covaxin till July, of which over 160 million will come to the Centre and subsequently be distributed to states and the remaining is expected to be procured directly by the states and private hospitals.

Of the 320 million, over 73 million will be procured and administered in May alone, of which over half has already been procured so far.

However, the expectation of 2.16 billion depends heavily on successful completion of clinical trials and regulatory authorisation for five vaccines—Biological E’s protein subunit vaccine, Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D, Serum Institute’s Covovax, Bharat Biotech’s intranasal vaccine, and Gennova Biopharmaceutical’s messenger RNA vaccine.

Of the total, 1.46 billion doses are from Covishield, Covaxin and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Sputnik V together—the three vaccines which have so far secured authorisation.

Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D is expected to be ready with its phase 3 efficacy data this month, which if successful would allow the company to secure an authorisation from the Drugs Controller General of India.

Biological E has received an approval from the DCGI for starting its phase 3 clinical trial and completion of the study and authorisation is expected in August, Paul had said earlier.

Serum Institute is yet to start production of Covovax, a version of the vaccine developed by US-based Novavax, as it struggles to secure raw materials following restrictions on their exports in the US in February.

Gennova and Bharat Biotech are currently in phase 1 of clinical trials for their mRNA and intranasal vaccines respectively.

Meanwhile, the government is also in talks with foreign vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

“From the very beginning, the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of External Affairs and other departments concerned have been in talks with Pfizer, Moderna and J&J. We have asked them if they can send doses to India or manufacture here, and we will find partners and assist you... They said we will talk about availability in Q3 of 2021 (July-September)," Paul said, adding that the talks on giving licensure to foreign vaccines is now going on “more intensely".

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