India plans to vaccinate 300m by mid-2021
India on Saturday approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, reported Reuters.
The country organised nationwide drills to start one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes as its drug regulator prepared to approve the first vaccine.
The dry run would identify any loopholes in logistics and deployment.
“I appeal to the people not to be misguided by rumours regarding the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccine. We will not compromise on any protocol before approving a vaccine,” said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, reported The Indian Express.
On Friday, experts from the Drug Controller General of India recommended that Covishield, the Indian version of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, should be approved.
First injections could be given in the coming week.
India, which has the world’s second-highest number of pandemic cases, has set an ambitious target of inoculating 300 million of its 1.3 billion people by mid-2021.
The Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine producer, has already stockpiled tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield ready for the campaign and 96,000 health workers have been trained for the inoculation drive.
India’s rate of infection has come down significantly from a mid-September peak of 90,000 plus cases daily and its fatality rate is lower than in other countries.
Britain and Argentina this week authorised the AstraZeneca vaccine while the World Health Organization on Thursday granted emergency validation to the rival Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Covishield is expected to get more use in India as it can be stored and transported under normal refrigeration while the Pfizer-BioNTech shot needs extreme temperatures of -70 to -80 degrees.
With additional reporting from AFP.