by Vinay Kumar in New Delhi
India’s wait for Covid-19 vaccine is over with the country’s top drug regulator giving approvals to two coronavirus vaccines – Covishield of Pune-based Serum Institute of India which is manufacturing it under license from Oxford University-Astra Zeneca and indigenously developed Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
A day after India’s drug regulator’s approval to the two vaccines for restricted emergency use, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the world’s biggest inoculation drive is set to being in the country while lauding the contributions of the country’s scientists and technicians.
While addressing scientists at the National Metrology Conclave, Modi said it must be ensured that “Made in India’’ products not only have a global demand but also global acceptance.
A dry run for the massive inoculation programme has already been held in all the States in India and the government plans the roll-out with about 300 million priority list of health care staff, frontline workers, police personnel and people above 50 years with co-morbidities. The immunisation drive may begin in the second fortnight of January.
With the green signal from the government regulator to the two vaccines, Bangladesh is also likely to get the timely delivery of Serum Institute of India’s vaccine well in time. Foreign Minister Dr A K Abdul Momen said in Dhaka that the decision was already taken at the highest level and there was nothing to worry.
During a summit meeting between the two Prime Ministers, held in a virtual format on December 17, 2020, Narendra Modi had assured his counterpart Sheikh Hasina that vaccines would be made available to Bangladesh as and when produced in India. Beximco Pharmaceuticals in Bangladesh has partnered with Serum Institute of India (SII) to procure about 30 million vaccine doses.
In a related development, Bharat Biotech’s chairman Krishna Ella put to rest criticism and concerns about Covaxin’s safety, his company’s vaccine candidate, saying it will be effective on mutant strains of the novel coronavirus. Covaxin is a two-dose Covid-19 vaccine to be given 28 days apart. He said the company has produced 16 vaccines and is catering to 123 countries. He said that 10 million doses of the vaccine were ready and efficacy data, showing the vaccine’s ability to protect against Covid-19, would be available by March.
Amid the government’s approval for the two Corona vaccines, India’s noted health expert and president of the Public Health Foundation of India Dr Srinath Reddy warned that protocols to prevent the spread of the disease must continue. He said till the majority gets immunity, wearing of masks and other Covid-appropriate behaviours must continue.
Talking about efficacy rate of Corona vaccines, Dr Reddy said told The Hindu newspaper that even a 50 to 70 per cent efficacy rate will confer benefits in a large-scale immunisation programme, especially when it comes to saving lives of vulnerable people.