India can look forward to a vaccine within a few days, going by the assurances being given by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).
On Thursday (December 31), while laying the foundation stone for an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Rajkot, Modi said: “Preparations are in the last stages for the vaccination programme against COVID-19. People will get a vaccine manufactured in India.”
Modi also coined a Hindi slogan for 2021: “Dawai bhi, kadaai bhi”, which means that despite there being a vaccine, people should still follow safety protocols.
On Wednesday (December 30), a panel of experts, appointed by the government, begun reviewing applications for the emergency-use approval for coronavirus vaccines submitted by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech. Pfizer has also sought the permission for its vaccine approved in the UK.
According to a government statement, the panel will meet again on Friday (January 1). The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) will give final approval to the vaccines after the panel clears it.
The Drugs Controller General Dr VG Somani, however, seemed optimistic about the vaccines getting approval soon. At a webinar on Thursday, he said: “Probably, we will have a happy New Year with something in hand. That is what I can hint at.”
Serum Institute of India (SII) will manufacture ‘Covishield’, developed by Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca. Adoor Poonawalla, the CEO of SII, said India will be given first priority for distribution of ‘Covishield’ it manufactures. Bharat Biotech, in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is developing ‘Covaxin’.
AIIMS Delhi Director Dr Randeep Guleria said that the approval by the UK government for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is “a big step forward”, adding that once SII shows data to DCGI, “they should get approval for the vaccine in India within a few days.”