India orders 300 million doses of unapproved Covid vaccine

·2-min read
<p>A medical worker inoculates a man with a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at a health centre in Amritsar, India, on 20 May, 2021. </p> (AFP via Getty Images)

A medical worker inoculates a man with a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at a health centre in Amritsar, India, on 20 May, 2021.

(AFP via Getty Images)

India has finalised a deal with local manufacturer Biological-E to buy 300 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, making it the first order that the country has placed for an unapproved jab.

India’s health ministry said the unnamed vaccine is currently undergoing Phase III clinical trials after showing promising results in Phase I and II trials.

The doses will be manufactured by Biological-E from August to December 2021 and the government has already put down an advance payment of £140 million. The vaccine is likely to be made available in the next few months.

The health ministry said that the arrangement with Biological-E is part of the government’s wider endeavour “to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in Research & Development (R&D) and also financial support”.

India is currently using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine — manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and called “Covishield” locally — and “Covaxin” made by local firm Bharat Biotech. It has also approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

The country is also in talks with US vaccine producers Pfizer and Moderna, though they have demanded relaxations of the regulatory process before they will agree to export to India.

The Narendra Modi government has been criticised for not placing large advance orders for vaccines, which some experts said has contributed to the shortage of doses that India is currently facing.

The government is now trying to speed up its vaccination drive and says it plans to inoculate every adult by the end of the year. Government adviser VK Paul said this week that India could have as many as 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines available daily in July and August.

But for June, the government had said India will have nearly 120 million doses for domestic use.

A data analysis by the Hindustan Times pointed out that India needs to deliver 238 million doses every month from June to meet the target of vaccinating every adult by the end of December this year. If India administers 120 million doses in June, it will need to give 258 million doses per month from July to meet the end-of-year goal.

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