To increase Covid-19 vaccine testing, the government has set up two additional labs from the PM Cares fund; each located in Hyderabad and Pune.

As the government scales up efforts to procure and produce more vaccines, the additional labs would help the government “to facilitate expedited testing and the pre-release certification of vaccines".

At present, there are two vaccine-testing laboratories in the country — the Central Drug Laboratory at Kasauli and the National Institute of Biologicals at Noida.

The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology has set up two vaccine testing facilities in its Autonomous Research Institutes National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune, and National Institute of Animal Biotechnology, (NIAB) Hyderabad as Central Drug Laboratory (CDL), for batch testing and quality control of vaccines, a government release said.

The funding was provided by the PM-CARES Funds trust.

The facilities are expected to test approximately 60 batches of vaccines per month, the government said, adding that they are “geared up to test existing COVID-19 vaccines and other newer COVID-19 vaccines as per the demand of the nation".

According to the government, this would expedite manufacturing and supply of vaccines, and also be logistically convenient as Pune and Hyderabad are vaccine manufacturing hubs.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy had on Saturday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sanctioning funds for setting the lab in Hyderabad. “A big step forward towards comprehensive development of pharma sector in Hyderabad, which will also boost production of COVID-9 vaccines," he had said.

The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has exceeded 35 crore, the Union Health Ministry said on Saturday. As the new phase of universalisation of COVID-19 vaccination commenced from June 21, more than 57.36 lakh vaccine doses were given in the country on Saturday.

Moderna’s Covid vaccine recently received emergency approval in India, and the first batch of the jabs is expected to arrive in the next two to three days. Once the vaccines reach, India will have four options to choose from - Covaxin, Covishield, Sputnik V and Moderna.

The Health Ministry in its briefings has reiterated ongoing efforts to approve, procure and produce more vaccines for the country’s ambitious inoculation drive against Covid-19. AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria had earlier said that approval of Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid vaccines would not only facilitate the drive for children, but also adults.

Meanwhile, the Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical firm Zydus Cadila has requested emergency use approval for its ZyCoV-D three-dose Covid shot that is the world’s first Plasmid DNA vaccine. Zydus claims its vaccine is 66.6 per cent effective against symptomatic Covid cases and 100 per cent for moderate disease.

The country witnessed a devastating second wave of the pandemic in April and May, which experts say is still ongoing. Driven by the infectious and deadly Delta variant, the wave saw people struggle for healthcare facilities and medical oxygen. Scaled up vaccination efforts and lockdowns helped abate the crisis.

But as states open up and Covid norms are relaxed, experts forewarn an incoming third wave of Covid to hit the country soon, which could affect children more, they say.

However, Dr Guleria has said that there is still need to prioritise the older population for vaccination rather than children. “We are seeing many vaccines go into trials for children, we should get information about these vaccines by September, and October," he said.

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