The government is funding the development of four vaccine candidates that have entered the human clinical trial stage and one vaccine candidate that is in advanced pre-clinical stages under Mission COVID Suraksha of the department of biotechnology. Among the vaccine candidates being supported is the world’s first DNA vaccine Zydis Cadila’s ZyCov-D that has already submitted interim phase 3 data for emergency-use authorisation.

The other vaccine candidates are a protein subunit vaccine by BiologicalE in phase 3 clinical trial, an adenovirus based nasal spray vaccine by Bharat Biotech in phase 2, an mRNA vaccine by Gennova in phase 1, and a virus-like particle-based vaccine by Genique Lifesciences in pre-clinical animal studies.

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So far, Mission COVID Suraksha has committed 710 crore to support these vaccines, three animal challenge facilities (for testing vaccines and therapeutics on animals), and 19 clinical trials sites (for phase 3 human trials). The mission is also supporting the scaling up of Covaxin production at Bharat Biotech and three other public sector undertaking companies, according to a statement by the Centre in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

“Mission COVID Suraksha is led by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and is implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) of DBT, at a total cost of Rs. 900 Cr. for 12 months,” said Dr Jitendra Singh, minister of state for union science ministry, in a Rajya Sabha answer.

Currently, three vaccines are in use in India’s vaccination drive -- the Indian version of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, and the Russian Sputnik V. India will also receive 7.5 million doses of the US mRNA vaccine by Moderna through the World Health Organization’s vaccine-sharing initiative Covax.

Several states have been complaining of vaccine shortage since the drive was opened up for everyone over the age of 18 in May.

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