WHO Approves India-Made Covaxin On The Eve Of Diwali!

Finally, the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the World Health Organization (WHO) has given its approval to fully India-made Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin for Emergency Use Listing (EUL) today. The approval comes after a crucial meeting held on 26th October 2021 where the TAG had asked Bharat Biotech for some additional information and the WHO indicated its approval once that piece of information was received (source: The Indian Express report). The EUL is set to clear the way for listing of Covaxin by more and more foreign countries easing the overseas travel restrictions being faced by Indian students and other travellers. The EUL is also set to help India to supply the vaccine doses to underdeveloped and poor countries through the WHO COVAX programme, depending of course on the production which has so far been quite low compared to Covishield in the Indian vaccination drive since January 2021.


This comes as a Diwali gift considering the long delay in the approval. In fact, the WHO has been reviewing Covaxin since the month of July and has been asking for more and more data. In July, Bharat Biotech had given its final clinical trial data to the Indian drug controller with 77.8% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 infection and 65.2% efficacy against the Delta variant that ravaged the country during April-June this year. Since July, all in India have been expecting good news from the WHO, and the India Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised this issue in the G-20 summit last week. In recent times we had also seen vaccine vexation between United Kingdom and India on travel restrictions imposed by the former and retaliated by the latter. The stalemate, in the meantime, has been amicably settled, and now the UK is expected to include Covaxin too in its list of approved COVID-19 vaccines along with other European countries and the US.


This approval also comes as a big boost for Bharat Biotech, India’s own vaccine developer cum manufacturer, and the firm must ramp up its production to help the Indian central and state governments to meet the target of full vaccination by the end of this year. So far, only around 10% of the partly or fully vaccinated population of India has got Covaxin jabs as compared to Covishield and a minor contributor Sputnik-V. The firm’s Covaxin for kids of 2-18 years of age has also got the nod from the expert committee of the DCGI and preparations have already been made to administer the much-needed jabs to children, but of course, the rollout is yet to begin. The Indian vaccine maker has also informed the media that the Central Drug Standard Control Organization has approved an extension in shelf life of Covaxin up to 12 months from the date of production. All is well then for celebrating a Happy Diwali and Kali/Laxmi Puja tomorrow, but with only candles, oil-lamps or
diyas and green fireworks as approved by the Supreme Court of India, and no crowding inside homes or outside.


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