New Delhi: An Indian government-backed COVID-19 vaccine could be launched as early as February. If that COVID-19 vaccine is launched it would be months earlier than expected. The last-stage trials of the vaccine is scheduled to begin this month, senior government scientist Rajni Kant was quoted as saying by the media Thursday.
Bharat Biotech is developing COVAXIN with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The company had earlier hoped to launch the vaccine in the second quarter of next year.
“The vaccine has shown good efficacy,” Rajni Kant a senior scientist at ICMR said. He is also a member of its COVID-19 task-force. If that happens, India would probably be the first country to launch an authentic COVID-19 vaccine. “It is expected that by the beginning of next year, February or March, something would be available,” Rajni Kant added.
A launch in February would make COVAXIN the first India-made vaccine to be rolled out.
India’s cases of coronavirus infections rose by 50,201 cases Thursday to 8.36 million. The death toll rose to 1,24,315 with 704 new fatalities in the last 24 hours. The daily rise in infections and deaths has slowed since a peak in mid-September.
Kant is the head of ICMR’s research management, policy, planning and coordination cell. He said it was up to the Health Ministry to decide if COVAXIN shots can be given to people even before the third-stage trials are over.
“It has shown safety and efficacy in the phase 1 and 2 trials and in the animal studies. So it is safe but you can’t be 100 per cent sure unless the phase 3 trials are over,” Kant said.
“There may be some risk, if you are ready to take the risk, you can take the vaccine. If necessary, the government can think of giving the vaccine in an emergency situation,” he added.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in September the government was considering granting an emergency authorisation for a COVID-19 vaccine. It will be applicable particularly for the elderly and people in high-risk workplaces.
Several leading vaccine candidates are already in final-stage testing. An experimental vaccine developed by Britain’s AstraZeneca is among the most advanced ones. Britain expects to roll it out in late December or early 2021.
AstraZeneca has signed several supply and manufacturing deals with companies and governments around the world. It has also entered into an agreement with Serum Institute of India.