India approves 1st coronavirus vaccines for emergency use

Jan 04 , 2020. 13 hours ago – 21:03 KYODO NEWS

NEW DELHI – India’s drug regulator said Sunday it has approved its first emergency-use coronavirus vaccines, including an indigenously developed one, paving the way for mass vaccination against the new virus in the second most populous country.

The just-approved vaccines are the one developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd., a domestic vaccine manufacturer, as well as one developed by British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford.

India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, has the world’s second most coronavirus cases after the United States with 10.3 million confirmed cases. It has the third most coronavirus-related deaths after the United States and Brazil.

Drugs Controller General of India V.G. Somani said in a statement that Covaxin, the inactivated coronavirus vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research, “is safe and provides a robust immune response.”

The overall efficacy of Covishield, the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot locally produced by Serum Institute of India, was 70.42 percent, he added. The vaccine producer has reportedly stockpiled 75 million doses already.

Both vaccines are administered in two doses and have to be stored at 2 C to 8 C, Somani said.

Health authorities say the government plans to first provide some 10 million health care workers with free vaccinations and expand inoculations to police and military personnel as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions.

India aims to vaccinate a total of 300 million people by July.

“A decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight!” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted after Sunday’s announcement by the drug regulator. The approval, he said, “accelerates the road to a healthier and COVID-free nation.”

Ahead of an actual vaccination drive, India conducted nationwide drills on Saturday to ensure smooth vaccination efforts.