COVID: India’s expert panel approves Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

Vaccine to be sent to India’s drugs regulator for approval after it got the green light by government-appointed panel.

A ground staff walks past a container kept at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi [File: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

A government-appointed panel of experts has approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University for emergency use and will send its recommendations to the country’s drugs regulator, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).

More than 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have already been stockpiled by its local manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India (SII).

Two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters news agency the vaccine was close to being approved.

One of the sources said the shots could start to be transported from cold storage to Indian states as early as Saturday.

The SII said in an email it would “wait for the final approval to come” before commenting.

India’s Serum Institute is producing 50-60 million doses a month, with plans to scale it up to a 100 million [File: Euan Rocha/Reuters]

Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam, reporting from the capital New Delhi, said the vaccine would be “very welcome news for several reasons”.

“Its news that is eagerly awaited not least because India is the second worst-affected country in the world [in terms of reported cases],” she said.

India has reported more than 10 million cases.

India is also considering emergency-use authorisation applications for vaccines made by Pfizer Inc with Germany’s BioNTech, and by India’s Bharat Biotech.

“Both AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech will get approval today,” one of the sources told Reuters earlier on Friday.

“All preparations are on with today’s date in mind.”

On Wednesday, the Indian government said Pfizer had sought more time to present data for emergency authorisation of a vaccine it has developed with Germany’s BioNTech.

Indian health authorities expect to start a vaccination drive for some 300 million people early next month.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies