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Will convince Modi govt to bring back Pfizer vaccine, it will add value: CSIR chief Mande

India will need at least 4 other vaccines to help finish immunisation drive faster, and J&J, Moderna, Sputnik are good options along with Pfizer, CSIR head Shekhar Mande says.

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New Delhi: The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India’s apex scientific research organisation, could become a mediator between the Narendra Modi government and US pharma giant Pfizer to bring the latter’s Covid vaccine to the country. 

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had applied for an emergency-use nod for its Covid vaccine in India, but withdrew its application earlier this month. 

CSIR director general Shekhar Mande told ThePrint that he will try to “convince” the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to initiate talks with Pfizer and find out ways to bring it back. Not only Pfizer, he said, the government should also consider inviting Johnson & Johnson and Moderna to India.  

The move is triggered by two latest developments. Pfizer announced earlier this week that its Covid-19 vaccine can be stored at warmer temperatures. Earlier, the vaccine required storage temperatures between -80ºC and -60ºC, which made the vaccine less viable for India.

Also, the requirement of multiple options of vaccine candidates in India will soon go up as India Wednesday said private hospitals could start vaccination now.

Drug regulator & Pfizer should find ‘middle way’

According to Mande, the latest development on Pfizer vaccine is “very encouraging”. “Now bringing Pfizer to India will add a lot of value,” he said.  

“I am not aware of the issues due to which Pfizer had withdrawn the application but now the regulator and company should try to find a middle way. Pfizer is performing very well in other countries.”

He added: “I will try to convince the Ministry of Health on behalf of CSIR and help them in finding ways to engage with Pfizer and bring them back. Also, we should find ways to bring Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to India. J&J’s single shot vaccine also looks quite exciting,” he said, adding that India is already considering the approval to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. “As we go ahead, we need more options to conclude the vaccination drive in India, faster.”

Also read: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could help end Covid pandemic, Israel study shows

Why Pfizer withdrew application 

Pfizer was the first pharmaceutical firm to apply for emergency-use authorisation for its Covid vaccine in India. However, on 5 February, the company decided to withdraw its application. 

According to the minutes of the meeting of the Subject Expert Committee, the expert panel that recommends vaccines to India’s drug regulator for approval, it had turned down Pfizer’s proposal as the company did not show interest in conducting ‘bridging trialsin India. 

“The firm has not proposed any plan to generate safety and immunogenicity data in Indian population,” the minutes read.

However, Mande said he would not like to comment on why the company withdrew its application. “I want both of them, the company and the regulator to find a middle way,” he said.

CSIR already in talks with Moderna 

ThePrint had reported last month that CSIR is in talks with American biotechnology firm Moderna to manufacture its vaccine in India.

However, according to Mande, the ongoing discussions are “scientific” in nature, and haven’t yet reached the stage of commercial collaborations to manufacture the vaccine.

“I am not aware if the company is in talks with any other Indian pharmaceutical firms for manufacturing the vaccine,” he said.

Also read: Pfizer studying if booster shots can produce stronger immunity against Covid variants

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  1. If you have uneducated prime minister you need to face these kind of situation. Even I don’t know why Indian government not giving approval to Sputnik vaccine.

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