The Centre on Thursday said it had signed an agreement with Hyderabad-based Biological-E for 30 crore doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Ministry of Health has put down an advance of ₹1,500 crore for the vaccine, which is still undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials, before approvals can be given. The arrangement is part of the government’s “wider endeavour” to “encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers”, the ministry said.
The government is scrambling to procure vaccines and speed up its inoculation drive after a devastating second wave of infections killed lakhs of people around the country. The Modi dispensation has also come under increasing criticism – including from the Supreme Court – for its bungled vaccine rollout.
“The arrangement with M/s Biological-E is part of the wider endeavour of Government of India to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research and development and also financial support,” the ministry said.
The shot being developed by Biological-E is an RBD protein sub-unit vaccine and is likely to be available in the next few months. The doses will be manufactured and stockpiled by Biological-E from August to December 2021, the ministry said.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the Centre’s policy of arranging free jabs for the 45-plus age category, and healthcare and frontline workers, while asking those in the 18-44 age group to pay was “prima facie arbitrary and irrational”.
The Delhi High Court also pulled up the Centre, saying some people need to be “charged with manslaughter” for sitting on the “untapped potential” of manufacturers.