An expert coronavirus panel in India has recommended authorizing the vaccine created by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, as well as a local candidate, for emergency use.
The agency in charge of licensing and regulating pharmaceuticals, the DrugIndi Controller General, has the final say on whether to authorize the vaccines, which would jump start an inoculation program for the country’s 1.3 billion people. The agency is expected to announce its decision on Sunday.
India has reported more than 10.3 million infections, the second highest number after the United States, and its related deaths are over 149,000, the world’s third-highest toll, after the United States and Brazil. The virus and a government lockdown devastated India’s economy and severely disrupted education.
The advisory committee recommended authorizing the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which has already been approved in the United Kingdom and Argentina, “subject to multiple regulatory conditionalities,” according to a statement released late Saturday.
The Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, signed a pact with AstraZeneca to make one billion doses of its vaccine for low-and-middle-income countries. The second vaccine was developed and financed by the Indian government and a Hyderabad-based company, Bharat Biotech.
Although Bharat Biotech hasn’t yet published efficacy data, the advisory committee recommended authorizing its vaccine’s use as a matter of public interest and “in the context of infection by mutant strains,” the statement said.
Dr. Randeep Guleria, the head of India’s most prestigious research hospital, told a local television network on Saturday that authorizing two vaccines at once would enable India to better protect itself against the more transmissible variant of the virus first identified in Britain.