On Sunday, January 3rd, the drugs controller general of India granted approval to the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in case of emergency. India also domestically developed Covaxin, a vaccine that started of one of the largest COVID-19 immunization drives in the world. According to The Guardian, “[Covaxin] is produced by the Indian company Bharat Biotech and was part-funded by the government, had come after ‘careful examination’ of the data.”
Because of their emergency approval, it makes India the second country to approve of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, known as “Covishield” in India, when the UK approved of it on Wednesday. The approval came when over 10.3 million people of more than 1.3 billion Indian residents were tested positive for the virus with 149,000 deaths. Prime minister Narendra Modi called the approval “a decisive turning point”.
In India’s first stage of vaccinations, they will give 30 million frontline healthcare workers, police, and members of the armed forces the priority of their 300 million people to vaccinate. After the priority, the vaccine will be given to those suffering a co-morbidity illness and those over the age of 50. Thus, the vaccines will be passed out without payment needed from patients.
A public health group, All India Drug Action Network, said it was “baffled” by the approval of the vaccine (Covaxin) even though it was only in the third phase of a vaccine trial. The Guardian states, “The government had previously promised that Covaxin, which was produced in conjunction with a government-run body, the Indian Council of Medical Research, would be ready for distribution by August 2020.” Leader Shashi Tharoor adds “The Covaxin has not yet had phase 3 trials. Approval was premature and could be dangerous.”
India faces huge obstacles in distributing the vaccine across to the 10.3 million cases. Their healthcare is unstable, lacking resources and power, and access is difficult in rural areas. “The government has begun training about 20,000 health workers to administer the vaccine and last week conducted trial runs in four states, using placebo vaccines administered by trained professionals,” The Guardian states.
With more obstacles on the way, India is trying hard to distribute vaccines to those who are the victims of the virus.