India has granted emergency authorization to two vaccines for COVID-19, setting the stage for rolling out what could be the world’s largest immunization program.
The two vaccines are the British-developed AstraZeneca vaccine that is being produced in India and another developed by an Indian pharmaceutical company, Bharat Biotech.
In a brief statement, the Drugs Controller General of India, Venugopal G. Somani said that “the vaccines have been approved for restricted use in India.” He said both manufacturers had submitted data showing their vaccines were safe to use.
India’s green signal to the AstraZeneca vaccines comes within days of approval granted in Britain. An Indian company, the Serum Institute of India has already stockpiled 50 million doses of the vaccine that it made even before formal approvals had come.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the vaccine approvals “a decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight.” He tweeted that “It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India!”
India, the world’s second worst-hit nation, plans to launch its immunization program sometime soon this month and has set the ambitious target of immunizing 300 million people by August. These will include health care workers, security personnel, those over 50 years and the clinically vulnerable.
Reaching that goal will involve administering 600 million doses – the vaccines require to be taken in two doses.