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New Delhi: Bharat Biotech's Covaxin has a negligible number of side effects reported among the beneficiaries of the Covid-19 vaccine, NITI Aayog's Member (Health), VK Paul said on Thursday.

"The vaccine has been administered so far to 19 lakh people and only 311 individuals of them have reported minimal side effects.

"It has stood the test of time with great safety," Paul said at a press briefing.

The government also announced that Covaxin is now allowed for regular emergency use among the public.

The licensure of Covaxin has been changed to emergency use authorisation from earlier approved restricted emergency use in clinical trial mode by India's drug regulatory authority.

Calling the development good news, Paul said that now Covaxin is at the same level as the other vaccine authorised in India.

"It is a good news. This has taken the authorisation for Covaxin to the next level where Covishield has been operating," he said.

Covishield, a Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the Oxford University, is manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII) here.

"It (Covaxin) was approved for REU but we scaled its authorisation under abundant precaution citing public interest. That restriction has been removed. Both the vaccines have the same intensity of licensure now," Paul added.

A day ago, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation's Subject Expert Committee approved Covaxin for emergency use authorisation.

Earlier, the vaccine's emergency use was permitted only in the clinical trial mode. This condition has now been waived off by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) now.

The decision was taken after the expert panel studied the interim result of the Phase 3 trial of the vaccine which demonstrated 81 per cent efficacy.

Bharat Biotech had announced results of Phase 3 clinical trials of Covaxin on March 3.

No Shortage Of COVID Vaccine Doses In Any State: Health Ministry

Meanwhile, the Union Health Ministry clarified that there is no shortage of COVID-19 vaccine doses in any state in the country so far.

Responding to a question on the Rajasthan government's claim that there is a shortage in COVID-19 vaccine stock, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the central government regularly monitors the availability of vaccine supply in all states and UTs and their consumption on a daily basis.

The vaccine stock availability is reviewed every morning.

"Data of the usage and consumption of COVID-19 vaccine comes from states. The central government does not vaccinate people. It just makes the vaccines available at free of cost in government facilities and at a fixed rate in private health facilities.

"According to data available as part of the daily review meeting held today morning, and even three days ago, there was no shortage of COVID-19 vaccine in any state in the country," he said.

The health ministry on March 9 had rejected reports on impending shortage of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Rajasthan, saying the central government regularly monitors the availability of vaccine supply in all states and UTs, and provides doses as per their requirement and consumption pattern.

"The factual position is that there is no shortage of COVID-19 vaccine with the state at present. Rajasthan has been supplied 37.61 lakh doses and has consumed only 24.28 lakh doses till yesterday night," the ministry had said in a statement.

In response to a question on wether the government has a timeline in mind for phase 3 of the vaccination drive and who gets included in that, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul said, "We are now focused on the relatively large group of individuals above the age of 60 as well as those aged and those aged 45-60 with comorbidities. We are building a momentum to cover this significantly large group."

"We will see progress and moving forward, yes, further increase in the circle of those who are eligible will be considered," he added.

On reducing the price of COVID-19 vaccine Covisheild, Bhushan said, "We have renegotiated the price for the vaccine. The earlier price was Rs 210, including taxes. After that, we have renegotiated the price, which is significantly lower than Rs 200."

The manufacturer of Covishield (Serum Institute of India Ltd.) has agreed to supply 10 crore doses at a price of Rs 150 plus GST per dose for priority group of population above 60 years and those aged between 45 to 60 years with comorbidity, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey recently said in a written reply at Rajya Sabha.

(With PTI Inputs)

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