₹ 35,000 Crore Announced For Vaccines

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today announced ₹ 35,000 crore for the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in the Union Budget for the coming year.

“I have provided ₹ 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 ₹ 2.23 lakh crore in 2021-22 as against BE of ₹ 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”.