- Last month, government approved two vaccines for emergency use
- India began its vaccination drive on January 16
- More than 37 lakh have been vaccinated so far
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today announced Rs 35,000 crore for the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in the Union Budget for the coming year.
"I have provided Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccine in this year 2021-22. I'm committed to provide further funds if required," Ms Sitharaman said.
The Finance Minister added that the expenditure was part of a significantly enhanced outlay on health.
"The Budget outlay for health and well-being is Rs 2.23 lakh crore in 2021-22 as against BE of Rs 94,452 crore," she said, noting that this was an increase of 137 per cent.
Ms Sitharaman also said that two more coronavirus vaccines would be launched.
"Today India has two (coronavirus) vaccines available and has begun safeguarding not just own citizens but also those of over 100 countries," Ms Sitharaman told parliament.
Last month the government approved two vaccines for emergency use in the country - Covishield (developed by pharma giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute) and Covaxin (developed and manufactured by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech).
Last week Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said he was hoping to launch Covovax - developed in partnership with American vaccine developer Novavax - by June. The efficacy of Novavax was calculated at 95.6 per cent against the original Covid strain, and 85.6 per cent against the UK variant.
The Serum Institute has already applied for permission for local trials in the country, and Mr Poonawalla has said his company can manufacture "upwards of 40-50 million doses per month".
Earlier this month Bharat Biotech applied for permission to conduct Phase I trials of a second vaccine - which is administered via the nostrils. This vaccine candidate is significant because it is a single-dose drug; both Covaxin and Covishield require two intramuscular injections each.
The DCGI (Drug Controller General of India) has yet to review the application. Phase I trials are the first of three sets that are mandatory for any vaccine to be recognised as safe and efficient.
India began its vaccination drive on January 16 and became the fastest country to vaccinate three million people, the government said in a series of tweets on Friday.
On Sunday Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his monthly radio address "Mann ki Baat", highlighted that fact and said that just as India's war against coronavirus had set an example for the world, the country's vaccination programme, too, was becoming an example.
In the first phase vaccines will be given to an estimated one crore healthcare workers and around two crore frontline workers. They will be followed by persons above 50 and those below but with associated comorbidities based on evolving pandemic situation.
The number of healthcare workers vaccinated has crossed the 37.5 lakh mark after 16 days of the countrywide COVID-19 inoculation programme, according to Union Health Ministry data.
As on Monday morning there are fewer than 1.7 lakh active coronavirus cases in the country.
With input from PTI