The government-appointed panel of experts has cleared the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine at the review meeting held today. The report will be given to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), which will give the final nod for emergency use in India.
India has now become the third country after the United Kingdom and Argentina to give the go-ahead to the vaccine.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) is making the vaccine Covishield developed by Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca.,
The Serum Institute of India, the local manufacturer of the vaccine, has already stockpiled nearly 50 million doses and a majority of them will be used in India.
Biotech has partnered with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for its Covaxin, which is also likely to be approved soon. Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), whose experts were meeting for the second time this week, could also approve a vaccine locally developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Pfizer had sought more time to present their data to the panel of experts. Considering the cost and other logistical requirements, the Pfizer vaccine may not be of much practical in India.
The center is looking to start giving vaccine shots from this month, once the vaccine is cleared for a final time by the DCGI.
A dry run for vaccination is scheduled in all the states tomorrow.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will monitor and analyse the dry run in the national capital. "The preparations are like general elections, where even the booth-level preparations are made. The purpose of the dry run is to be ready for the actual rollout... Potential recipients of the vaccine will be informed via SMS. Frontline workers are the priority. After inoculation, a digital certificate will also be provided," the health minister said.
The expert panel recommending the affordable Oxford vaccine to the drugs regulator is a big development for India in the fight against the pandemic on the first day of the new year, as the country has the second-biggest number of COVID-19 infections after the US. The government plans to vaccinate 30 crore people in India in six to eight months.