India has ramped up its coronavirus vaccine production amid a deadly second wave of infections that is now abating.
It is preparing to use a local version of Novavax vaccine, which will be produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
The vaccine was more than 90% effective in a late-stage US-based clinical trial, according to the company.
The government has also ordered 300 million doses of another vaccine from Indian firm Biological E.
India has so far given more than 260 million doses of three approved vaccines – Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V. It also gave approval to Indian pharma company Cipla on Tuesday to import Moderna vaccine, which has shown nearly 95% efficacy against Covid-19.
India’s health ministry official VK Paul said the federal government received an application from Moderna through Cipla. “This new drug permission for restricted emergency use is now in operation,” Mr Paul said.
With the total case tally of more than 30 million, India is now only behind the United States which has reported over 33 million cases. With 18.4 million cases, Brazil is now at number three.
The country is also only the third in the world to record more than 300,000 deaths – behind the US and Brazil.
The government aims to vaccinate all Indians by the end of this year, but the drive has been hobbled by slow pace, shortage of doses and vaccine hesitancy.
Only 3.5% of the people have been fully vaccinated and 15% have received one dose since the beginning of the drive in January.
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There are currently two homegrown vaccines for the coronavirus: Covishield and Covaxin. Russia’s Sputnik V has been also approved for use and is being used in some quantities.
When will the Covovax vaccine be available?
Last September, US pharmaceutical firm Novavax signed a deal with the SII to produce 2 billion doses of the vaccine.
SII’s chief executive officer Adar Poonwalla has said he hoped to launch the vaccine, known as Covovax in India, by September.https://emp.bbc.com/emp/SMPj/2.43.6/iframe.htmlmedia captionNovavax chief executive: UK trial results are “spectacular”
He said clinical trials of the vaccine are likely to conclude by November, but SII can apply for a licence before its completion on the basis of global data of the trial.
The Novavax jab, which is given in two doses, was shown to be 91% effective among volunteers at high risk of severe infection and 100% effective in preventing moderate and severe cases of Covid-19 in the US trials.
What about the second new vaccine?
The government has placed an order for 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine from Biological E, the first Indian private vaccine-making company.
The $206m (£145m) order is the first India has signed for a jab that has not received emergency approval. The vaccine has been developed in collaboration with US-based Dynavax and Baylor College of Medicine.
The unnamed vaccine is in the key third phase of clinical trials – the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety – after showing “promising results” in the first two phases, the government said in a statement.
It said the new vaccine is “likely to be available in the next few months”.
In April, the government gave emergency approvals to vaccines already in use in other countries to “expand the basket of vaccines for domestic use and hasten the pace and coverage of vaccination”.
This means that vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna could become available for Indians.
What do we know about Sputnik V?
The vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, initially generated some controversy after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released. But scientists say its benefits have now been demonstrated.
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