India approves two vaccines . . .
The Drugs Controller General of India has approved two emergency-use COVID-19 vaccines. The first, Covishield, was developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and is manufactured in India by one of the world’s largest vaccine producers, the Serum Institute of India (SII). The second vaccine, Covaxin, has been developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research as part of the Indian government’s push for self-reliance. However, scientists and doctors have raised concerns about the approval of the locally-developed Covaxin as it has yet to complete clinical trials or provide data efficacy. But the government claims Covaxin is completely safe and effective.
Plans to vaccinate millions by August . . .
Despite reservations about Covaxin, the Indian government has proposed to start a massive immunization program in the coming weeks and hopes to inoculate 300 million citizens by August. The government will provide vaccines free of charge to those eligible for the first phase, including health-care and frontline workers and citizens over the age of 50. Administered in two doses and stored at between two to eight degrees Celsius, the vaccines are cheaper than other approved vaccines on the global market and are easier to store and use. The government has also set up a digital platform to streamline registering for the vaccine, communicating with patients, and issuing vaccination certifications.
Help thy neighbour . . .
The Indian government will also allow the export of its COVID-19 vaccines to its South Asian neighbours in the coming weeks. Initially, following the two vaccines' approval, SII said the government would bar vaccine exports for several months. This raised concerns among neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, which are depending on Indian vaccine exports. But SII and Bharat Biotech, in a joint statement, labelled the reports as “miscommunication” and emphasized the importance of global access to COVID-19 vaccines. The SII, in collaboration with the Global Vaccine Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has now committed to delivering millions of reasonably-priced COVID-19 vaccine doses to low and middle-income countries.