Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced a Rs 900 crore stimulus towards research and development of the Covid-19 vaccine while also assuring that funds will be provided according to the requirement for the cost of the vaccine and logistics requirement as well in future.
The funds for research have been allocated to the Department of Biotechnology as part of the stimulus package announced by the finance minister.
“India is waiting for an effective vaccine to come - one or many more. We are spending on research and development apart from what we will give when the vaccine is ready to be bought and distributed. We are also keeping abreast of the developments around the vaccine,” Sitharaman said.
Prasanna Deshpande, deputy managing director at the Hyderabad based Indian Immunologicals Ltd, welcomed the step and said that it would certainly help find new projects. "If companies are working on new technology, new adjuvants etc , this would come as a shot in the arm if DBT allocates funds for these projects," he said.
Deshpande, however, added that it was not clear if the funds would be used to aid clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines as well.
Government is still working on the stimulus and assessing the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy, the finance minister added. She said that the rise in cases in the country is not across the board and the mortality rate for the virus has come down.
This is the first financial package towards the coronavirus vaccine announced by the government. A national committee headed by V K Paul, member-health, Niti Aayog is drawing up the plan for the process of vaccine procurement and distribution.
Many rich countries such as the US, Japan and UK, among others, have already paid drug companies upfront to secure billions of doses of vaccines.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has raised around $ 1.7 billion through contributions by countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Italy and Sweden. The Gavi Covax, a financing mechanism, will support 92 low and middle-income countries’ access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines. India is part of the Covax - Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access.
There are five front-running vaccine candidates in India currently under development by Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadila, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and Biological E in India.
Sitharaman also announced the launch of a credit guarantee support scheme for the healthcare sector and 26 sectors stressed due to covid-19. The companies will get additional credit up to 20 per cent of outstanding credit with repayment possible in 5 years including a first-year moratorium on repayments.