PUNE: Russian-made Sputnik V will soon become the third Covid vaccine to be made available for free at governmentrun vaccination sites in the country, Dr N K Arora, chairperson of the Centre’s Covid-19 working group, has said.
“Currently, Sputnik V is available only in the private sector. Depending on supply, we want to make it available under our free vaccination programme soon,” he said.
Sputnik V requires a storage temperature of -18°C. Arora said cold chain facilities preserving polio vaccines would be used to store Sputnik V, a plan that will also ensure it reaches the country’s rural areas, he said.
As for the pace of vaccination coverage, Arora said some regions may have seen a slowdown in Covid vaccination due to the ongoing polio drive. “The Covid vaccination programme will be streamlined within the coming week,” he said.
Arora told TOI that more than 34 crore Covid vaccine doses had been administered so far, and another 12 to 16 crore should be administered by July-end, as per schedule. In January, the Centre had said that nearly 50 crore doses would be administered by July-end to cover priority groups.
He said Covishield and Covaxin still constitute a big chunk of vaccine supplies. “Besides scaling up production of these two vaccines, the addition of Sputnik V and the impending rollout of Moderna and Zydus Cadila’s new shot would boost daily coverage from 50 lakh a day to 80 lakh and even 1 crore in the coming weeks.”
The target is to cover everyone over18 (nearly 93 crore people) by the end of this year. Arora said that with a recent ICMR report predicting a third wave by February or March next year, the country had a window of about eight months to achieve that objective.
He also said it was too early to link the new Delta-plus variant to a possible third wave. India has reported 52 Covid cases involving the variant. “Whether it will lead to a third wave will depend on universal adoption of Covid-appropriate behaviour, ramping up of vaccination drives and testing and tracing in districts,” he said.