Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit India's top vaccine hubs in Pune and Hyderabad this weekend with coronavirus cases surging in parts of the country and amid redoubled efforts to zero in on an effective vaccine.
On Saturday, the PM will visit the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, which has partnered with global pharma giant AstraZeneca and the Oxford University for a COVID-19 vaccine.
An official in Pune confirmed the Prime Minister's visit, and said he would review the status of the vaccine, including its launch, production and distribution mechanisms. "We have received a confirmation about PM Modi's visit to the Serum Institute of India on Saturday, but his minute-to -minute program is yet to be received," Pune Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao told news agency Press Trust of India.
The same day, PM Modi is expected to travel to Hyderabad and visit Bharat BioTech, which is working on Covaxin, pitched as India's first indigenous vaccine candidate. Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar told NDTV the Prime Minister was expected at 3:40 pm and after a visit to the facility between 4 and 5 pm, he would fly out at 5:40 pm.
The BJP was reportedly keen on PM Modi using the trip to campaign for the municipal elections in Hyderabad, but sources said the Saturday visit will not include any political activity.
Ambassadors and envoys from 100 countries are expected to visit the Serum Institute of India and the Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd in Pune next week.
After AstraZeneca reported that its vaccine was 90 per cent effective under certain conditions, Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine maker, said it planned to make available a minimum of 100 million doses of Covishield by January and hundreds of million could be ready by the end of February.
Astra and Oxford recently said their vaccine was 90% effective when a half-dose was given before a full-dose booster, and that two full doses showed an efficacy of 62%. But questions have been raised after it emerged that the dose showing the higher level of effectiveness was tested on a younger population, and that the half-dose was given to some people because of an error in the quantity of vaccine put into some vials.