India Approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 Vaccine


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: AstraZeneca’s COVISHIELD vaccine against coronavirus (COVID-19) vials are seen before being packaged in a laboratory at the Serum Institute of India, Pune


By Krishna N. Das

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India has approved COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca (NASDAQ 🙂 and Oxford University, paving the way for a major vaccination campaign in the world’s second largest country.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters on Saturday that the vaccine was given the green light on Friday and confirmed what sources close to the matter had told Reuters.

It is the first COVID-19 vaccine approved by India for emergency use. India has the highest number of infections after the US and is introduced the day the country conducts a nationwide mock vaccine delivery exercise.

Javadekar said at least three more vaccines are awaiting approval – COVAXIN from local company Bharat Biotch, ZyCoV-D from Zydus Cadila and Sputnik-V from Russia.

“India may be the only country where at least four vaccines are ready,” he said.

“One was emergency approved yesterday, Serum’s COVISHIELD.” he said, referring to the fact that the AstraZeneca / Oxford recording is being made locally by the Serum Institute of India (SII).

India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is expected to later release the dosage and other details about the shot. SII had applied for a two full dose regimen about 28 days apart.

The AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine, first approved by the UK on Tuesday, is cheaper and easier to use than some competitive vaccines – a huge advantage in fighting a pandemic that killed more than 1.8 million people worldwide.

However, it has been plagued by uncertainty about its most effective dosage since data released in November showed that half a dose followed by a full dose had a 90% success rate, while two full shots had 62% effectiveness.

The Indian regulatory agency has also received an emergency application for the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc (NYSE 🙂 with Germany’s BioNTech – the first attempt to get regulatory approval in the West.

India has reported more than 10 million COVID-19 cases, although the infection rate has dropped significantly since mid-September.

The country hopes to vaccinate 300 million of its 1.35 billion people in the first six to eight months of this year.

SII, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, has already stocked approximately 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca / Oxford shot, which is being sold to the government at around 250 rupees ($ 3.42) per dose and 1,000 rupees in the private market.

($ 1 = 73.1200 Indian rupees)

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