India approves Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use in major breakthrough for Covid fightback

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being locally produced by the Serum Institute of India

Stuti Mishra
in Delhi
Friday 01 January 2021 12:56 GMT
India approves Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine 
India approves Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine  (AFP via Getty)

India has given a green light for emergency use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, making it the first jab to be granted approval by regulators in the Covid-19 pandemic’s second worst-hit country.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), whose experts were meeting on Friday for the second time this week came to the decision that paves the way for a near-immediate start to the inoculation process, according to Reuters.

The group was meeting a day ahead of a nationwide trial run for vaccine delivery in the country. According to Indian media reports, both AstraZeneca and the makers of a local vaccine candidate made presentations before the panel on Wednesday, while Pfizer, which has also applied for emergency authorisation sought more time to present their data.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, branded as “Covishield” in India, is being locally produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the biggest vaccine manufacturer in the world. 

The local vaccine was produced by Bharat Biotech in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and named “Covaxin”. It is expected to become the first locally developed vaccine in the country to get approval.

More than 50 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have already been stockpiled by SII. Reuters quoted multiple sources as saying that the shots could start to be transported from cold storage to Indian states for use as early as Saturday.

The chief executive of SII, Adar Poonawalla, earlier told Indian media outlets the company is aiming to produce 100 million doses by January. He said the vaccine is being provided to the government of India at a cost of $3-4 per jab. 

The Oxford vaccine has been considered the frontrunner in India's quest for vaccines for several reasons. The vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna require extremely cold storage facility of -70 degrees and -20 degrees respectively, for which India lacks the appropriate infrastructure. The two vaccines also cost considerably more per jab than those made by AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech. 

The UK on Wednesday became the first country in the world to grant emergency authorisation for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It had approved Pfizer’s earlier in December. 

India has reported over 10 million coronavirus infections, with 149,000 deaths.

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