India orders 300 million doses of vaccines after court rebuke

New Delhi: India ordered 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by a local manufacturer, as the government comes under pressure from the nation’s Supreme Court to cover more of the population.

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Hyderabad-based Biological-E Ltd. will be paid an advance of Rs15 billion ($205 million), the government said in a statement Thursday. Phase 3 trials of the vaccine are currently on and the firm will prepare the shots between August and December.

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The Supreme Court this week asked the government to prepare a vaccination policy that prices the shots equally for all and protects the poor. India’s plans have had a rough ride, starting from vaccine diplomacy during a brief lull between the first and far deadlier second coronavirus waves, to the current shortage for Indian citizens.

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The Biological-E vaccine is a Receptor Binding Domain protein sub-unit vaccine. It’s being developed together with Houston-based Baylor College of Medicine. When announcing trials last year, Biological-E said the two-dose vaccine will be spaced 28 days apart.

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Due to the shortfall of doses, it’s projected to take India about two years to cover 75% of its population with a two-dose shot at the current pace of vaccination. The government says it will vaccinate every Indian by the end of 2021.

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India’s rush to procure vaccines means it may waive the indemnity clause for imported vaccines even as it has an in-principle agreement with Pfizer Inc. to start providing its shot against the COVID-19 virus by next month, The Times of India reported, citing a government official it didn’t identify.

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