Unique: The India-made COVID-19 vaccine could possibly be launched as early as February – authorities scientists

Β© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man drives his motorcycle past a parked bus for Indian biotechnology company Bharat Biotech outside his Hyderabad office

By Krishna N. Das

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A government-backed COVID-19 vaccine could hit the market as early as February – months earlier than expected – as the latest studies begin this month and studies so far have shown it is safe and effective, government scientist told Reuters.

Bharat Biotech, a private company that is developing COVAXIN with the government-run Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), had previously hoped it would not be launched until the second quarter of next year.

“The vaccine has shown good effectiveness,” said senior ICMR scientist Rajni Kant, who is also a member of the COVID-19 task force, at the research facility’s headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday.

“It is expected that something will be available early next year, February or March.”

Bharat Biotech could not be contacted immediately.

A launch in February would make COVAXIN the first Indian-made vaccine to be launched.

India’s cases of coronavirus infections rose by 50,201 cases to 8.36 million on Thursday, second only to the US. The deaths rose by 704 to 124,315. The daily increase in infections and deaths has slowed since a peak in mid-September.

Kant, head of the ICMR’s research, policy, planning and coordination cell, said it was up to the health ministry to decide whether COVAXIN recordings can be given to people before the third-stage studies are completed.

“It has shown safety and effectiveness in the Phase 1 and 2 studies, as well as in animal studies. So it’s safe, but you can’t be 100% sure if the Phase 3 studies aren’t finished,” Kant said.

“There may be some risk. If you are willing to take the risk, you can take the vaccine. If necessary, the government can remember to give the vaccine in an emergency.”

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in September the government was considering issuing an emergency permit for a COVID-19 vaccine, especially for the elderly and people in high-risk workplaces.

Several leading vaccine candidates are already in the final stages of testing. An experimental vaccine developed by the UK’s AstraZeneca (NYSE πŸ™‚ is among the most advanced and the UK expects to launch it in late December or early 2021.

AstraZeneca has signed several supply and manufacturing agreements with companies and governments around the world, including the Serum Institute of India.

Other late-stage vaccines are being developed by Modern (NASDAQ πŸ™‚ Inc, Pfizer Inc (NYSE πŸ™‚ with partner BioNTech SE (NASDAQ πŸ™‚ and Johnson & Johnson.

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