India has finally approved two vaccines to protect the population against coronavirus. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Serum-AstraZeneca's Covishield for emergency use in the country.
Following the development, Dr Randeep Guleria, the Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, laid out the plans how the two inoculations could be used to vaccinate Indians. Exclaiming that it is a great day for the country, he said that initially Covishield will be administered to the public. Later, as Covaxin becomes available, it can be treated as a back-up.
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.
"Initially, Serum Institute vaccine will be given. They already have 50 million doses available and they'll be able to give that in initial phase where we'll vaccinate around 3 crore people. Gradually, we'll build on it and by the time Bharat Biotech data will also be available," Dr Guleria said.
He further suggested that Covaxin can be used to address emergency situations, like a sudden flare-up in COVID-19 cases, and as a back-up, if there are doubts on the efficacy of the Serum-AstraZeneca vaccine.
"In an emergency situation when there is a sudden increase in cases and we need to vaccinate, Bharat Biotech vaccine will be used. It can also be used as a back-up when we're not sure how efficacious the Serum Institute vaccine is going to be," Dr Guleria said.
The AIIMS Director emphasised the vaccines will be rolled out for emergency use only and trials for them will continue to provide better efficacy and safety data.
"Approval clearly says 'emergency situation' keeping in mind the circulating variant strains and at the same time, they have to continue the trial and get the data in. Once that data comes in, we'll be more confident as far as safety and efficacy is concerned," he said.