India scraps local trials for Covid vaccines to fast-track imports
The Centre on Thursday scrapped local trials for "well-established" foreign coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines to fast-track imports, news agency Reuters reported.
The government said it was in talks with American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for "earliest possible" imports of its vaccine and that it had also had discussions with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.
Last month, India pledged to fast-track approvals for foreign vaccines but its insistence on local trials was a key reason for stalled discussions with Pfizer.
"The provision has now been further amended to waive the trial requirement altogether for the well-established vaccines manufactured in other countries," Reuters quoted the government saying in a statement. This was earlier announced by Niti Aayog (health) member Dr VK Paul in a statement, which said that the vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency and other reputed bodies, will not be required to undergo prior bridging trial and trials for “well-established” vaccines have been waived altogether.
India started its nationwide vaccination programme on January 16 this year after the country's drugs regulator DCGI approved two vaccines - AstraZeneca's Covishield and Covaxin made by local firm Bharat Biotech. Russia-made Sptunik V is also available in the market now.
But supplies are far short of the millions of doses the world's second-most populous country needs. Many state governments have flagged the issue to the Centre, with chief ministers claiming the Centre is not doing enough to procure vaccines from abroad.
The government countered the allegation, calling it a myth. Dr Paul said on Thursday said that the government is engaged in discussions and deliberations with many pharmaceutical giants. The government even offered assistance for the domestic production of their vaccines. However, vaccines being in “limited supply globally” has hampered their efforts, Dr Paul said in the statement.
Though India has tremendously increased the daily testing and vaccination of its population, just about 3% of the country's 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated.
The country reported 211,298 new infections on Thursday, nearly half the daily infections it recorded earlier this month, which pushed the overall caseload to 27.37 million.