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It’s here India ‘ready to approve’ Covid jab

Regulator expected to greenlight AstraZeneca vaccine with rollout to start almost immediately

 India’s drug regulator is reported to be ready to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University for emergency use, three sources with knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

The decision would pave the way for the vaccine’s rollout in the world’s second-most populous country which, after the United States, has the highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world at nearly 10.3 million.

Britain and Argentina have already authorised the vaccine for urgent public use.

The Thai government earlier this year signed an advance agreement with AstraZeneca for the supply and production of 26 million doses of its vaccine, but supplies were not expected to be available before May. 

However, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Thursday that he had secured the supply of at least 2 million doses of Covid vaccine from producers “between February and April”.

He gave no other details.

India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), whose experts were meeting on Friday, could also approve a vaccine developed locally by Bharat Biotech, two of the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“Both AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech will get approval today,” said one of the sources. “All preparations are on with today’s date in mind.”

The other sources were less certain about Bharat Biotech’s prospects.

“We are hopeful,” another source said about the vaccine developed with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

A CDSCO representative declined to comment. The group was meeting a day ahead of a nationwide trial run for vaccine delivery in the country.

More than 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have already been stockpiled by its local manufacturer, Serum Institute of India (SII), and one of the sources said the shots could start to be transported from cold storage to Indian states as early as Saturday.

SII said in an email it would “wait for the final approval to come” before commenting.

The Indian government said on Wednesday that Pfizer Inc had sought more time to present data for emergency authorisation of the vaccine it has developed with BioNTech of Germany.

That vaccine is already in use in the United States, the United Kingdom, many European Union nations and Canada.

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