By Shailesh Yadav
New Delhi [India], April 20 (ANI): Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has approved a total of Rs 4,567.50 crore as advance payment to Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech to ramp up vaccine production against coronavirus, sources told ANI.
Finance Ministry sources told ANI on Monday that the government has approved Rs 3,000 crores of financial assistance for SII and Rs 1567.50 crores to Bharat Biotech which will be released soon to these companies. Serum Institute manufactures the Covishield vaccine, while Bharat Biotech is the manufacturer of Covaxin.
Vaccine manufacturers have been seeking financial support from the government considering the investment made in Research and Development and huge capacity addition.
Earlier this month, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, had asked the government for financial assistance to ramp up vaccine production. Other than Covishield, Serum India is also doing trials of Covovax in partnership with Novavax.
Poonawala had announced that Covovax has been tested against African and UK variants of COVID-19 and has overall efficacy of 89 per cent. He shared his hope to launch it by September 2021.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on April 16 announced on Twitter that the government has provided a grant of Rs 65 crores to Covaxin manufacturer Bharat Biotech. The decision comes as a way to enhance the production capacity of the Bharat Biotech at their new Bengaluru facility. The government expects the production of the Covaxin vaccine to reach from 1 crore to 10 crore doses by September.
On Monday, the government announced that everyone above the age of 18 will be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the vaccination drive beginning May 1.
Several important decisions were taken in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of vaccines being made flexible in Phase 3 of the world's largest vaccination drive.
Vaccine manufacturers have been incentivised to further scale up their production, as well as attract new national and international players. They are empowered to release up to 50 per cent of their supply to state governments and in the open market at a pre-declared price.
States are empowered to procure additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers, as well as open up vaccination to any category of people above the age of 18 for the same.
The COVID-19 situation in India continues to deteriorate amid the second wave of coronavirus infections. For the past three days, the country has been reporting in excess of two lakh coronavirus infections and over 1000 related deaths on a daily basis. (ANI)