Coronavirus in Kyrgyzstan
World|health|January 4, 2021 / 11:19 AM
India approves vaccines from Bharat Biotech and Oxford/AstraZeneca
Photo: Getty Images // India immunisation programme is one of the largest in the world

AKIPRESS.COM - India has formally approved the emergency use of two coronavirus vaccines as it prepares for one of the world's biggest inoculation drives, BBC reported.

The drugs regulatory authority gave the green light to the jabs developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University and by an Indian firm Bharat Biotech.

Serum Institute of India (SII), has manufactured Covishield, the Indian variant of the AZD1222 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and already stockpiled some 80 million doses. As such, the rollout can begin fairly quickly. SII is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. The other vaccine that has got emergency use authorisation, Covaxin, manufactured by Hyderabad-based Bharat  Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), could take a few days or weeks to be available.

India plans to inoculate some 300 million people on a priority list by July this year. This include 30 million health care workers, and emergency services. Another priority group receiving vaccine is 270 million persons above age 50, who are associated with comorbidities. India’s Health Minister announced on January 2 that the vaccine will be administered to them for free in the first phase.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it "a decisive turning point”. PM Modi tweeted, “It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India! This shows the eagerness of our scientific community to fulfil the dream of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, at the root of which is care and compassion.”

India has recorded the second-highest number of infections in the world, with more than 10.3 million confirmed cases to date. Nearly 150,000 people have died.

On Saturday India held nationwide drills to prepare more than 90,000 health care workers to administer vaccines across the country, which has a population of 1.3 billion people.

The Drugs Controller General of India said both manufacturers had submitted data showing their vaccines were safe to use. He said Bharat Biotech's Covaxin was "safe and provides a robust immune response”.

Covishield is administered in two doses given between four and 12 weeks apart. It can be safely stored at temperatures of 2C to 8C, about the same as a domestic fridge, and can be delivered in existing health care settings such as doctors' surgeries.

This makes it easier to distribute than some of the other vaccines. The jab developed by Pfizer/BioNTech - which is currently being administered in several countries - must be stored at -70C and can only be moved a limited number of times - a particular challenge in India, where summer temperatures can reach 50C.

India makes about 60% of vaccines globally. India's existing vaccination programme already reaches about 55 million people a year, administering 390 million free jabs against a dozen diseases. It stocks and tracks the vaccines through a well-oiled electronic system.

Pfizer, whose vaccine has already been approved for use in jurisdictions including the UK, the US and the EU, is also seeking emergency authorisation in India.

In all, some 30 vaccine candidates are being developed in India.

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