The head of India's premier medical research authority cited prospective effectiveness against the mutated UK strain of coronavirus as the reason behind granting emergency use authorisation to Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. India currently has 29 confirmed cases of the new COVID-19 strain that emerged first in the United Kingdom.
Talking to India Today, Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that the scientists deliberating emergency use authorisation to various vaccines felt that Covaxin can work better in protecting against the mutated COVID-19 strain by virtue of being a whole virus vaccine.
"Emergency use authorisation is slightly different for both of them. For Bharat Biotech, the emergency use authorisation is a proactive step because we feel and the scientific community that was deliberating... potential benefit of this whole virus vaccine may be more compared to any other vaccine," Dr Bhargava said.
He also emphasised that the scientists at ICMR have been successfully able to culture the UK strain and the efficacy of Covaxin against it will be further tested in days to come.
On Sunday, the Drug Controller General of India approved Covishield and Covaxin coronavirus vaccines for emergency use. The approval came a day after the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) finished its two-day long deliberations to recommended vaccines for emergency use.
Covishield has been jointly developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Serum Institute of India is manufacturing and will distribute the jab in the country. The vaccine has shown efficacy rate of 70 per cent after two full doses. However, one of the regimens with a half dose and a full dose showed 90 per cent efficacy against the virus. Serum Institute has stockpiled 50 million doses of Covishield, most of which is expected to come to India.
On the other hand, Covaxin has been developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology. It is the first indigenous coronavirus vaccine developed in India. Phase 3 clinical trials of the vaccine are still underway and there is still no clarity on vaccine efficacy. Notably, shortly after approving it for emergency use, DCGI has given licensing permission to Bharat Biotech to manufacture Covaxin.
Calling it a great day for Indian population, Dr Bhargava elaborated that only government will be able to procure the vaccines during the emergency use phase. He added that both vaccines will be periodically reviewed during the emergency use phase.
"Emergency use authorisation means only government can procure and distribute the two vaccines. Vaccines can be sold in private sector only after full licensure is granted. Data will be reviewed every week by regulatory authorities," he said.