Mumbai, Dec 7 (AFP/APP): Two Indian pharmaceutical firms, including the world’s biggest manufacturer of vaccines, on Monday sought fast-track approval for coronavirus shots in the world’s second most populous nation.
The country of 1.3 billion is the world’s second-worst hit by the pandemic after the United States, and has already recorded nearly 9.7 million infections and more than 140,000 deaths. Serum Institute of India chief executive Adar Poonawalla said approval for distribution of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine — of which the company is already making 50-60 million doses a month — “will save countless lives”.
Poonawalla said last month the doses would be sold to the Indian government at around 250 rupees (US$3.00). “As promised, before the end of 2020, @SerumInstIndia has applied for emergency use authorisation for the first made-in-India vaccine, COVISHIELD,” Poonawalla tweeted. Bharat Biotech on Monday also applied for emergency use permission for its indigenously developed vaccine, the Press Trust of India and other local media reported.
The announcements came after US giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech last week sought approval for its coronavirus vaccine in India, local media reported late Sunday. AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be stored at the temperature of a normal refrigerator, while Pfizer’s needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit). India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told local media last month that first in line for the vaccine would be health workers, other frontline workers including the police, paramilitary and those working in sanitisation, as well as people aged above 65.
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