WHO expert panel on Covid-19 vaccines to meet today, Covaxin on agenda
Covaxin, India's indigenously-developed vaccine against coronavirus disease (Covid-19), has so far not received the much-coveted emergency use approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) but is likely to do so soon. An expert panel of the global health body is meeting on Tuesday, October 5, to decide on, among other things, Bharat Biotech's Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin getting the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) authorisation, according to documents detailing the committee's agenda for the meeting and the assessment status of pending applications for vaccine candidates. Top health experts say the approval of the vaccine shouldn't be delayed after reviewing the data this month.
The Strategic Advisory Group of Expert on Immunization (SAGE) will be conducting a meeting on Tuesday regarding the EUL to Covaxin. The expert panel started its four-day meet on October 4 to decide on policy guidance. This is especially important in light of the fact that all vaccine dossiers submitted to the WHO must go through both SAGE and a technical advisory group, which is also meeting this month, for EUL or pre-qualification.
So far, the World Health Organization has only included six Covid-19 vaccine candidates in its EUL. These are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine—which is being manufactured as Covishieldby the Serum Institute of India—the Moderna jab and the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.
According to reports, the EUL is a risk-based procedure that considers each unlicensed vaccine for assessment and listing. The process also includes therapeutics and in-vitro diagnostics to expedite vaccine availability to people affected by a certain public health emergency. If Covaxin is included in this list, India's indigenously-developed Covid-19 vaccine will expectedly gain a wider global acceptance.
“Globally, the world is in need of vaccines and we have to ensure that this is a global war, and many countries are still not getting vaccinated,” Dr Naveet Wig, chairperson of the Covid-19 task force at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, told the ANI news agency. “So we have to ensure that our vaccines should get the approval timely.”
Last Friday, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria said that the delay in Covaxin receiving EUL from the WHO would translate to more inconvenience for Indians, especially students, who have international travel plans. “The EUA is important because, without it, Covaxin will not be considered and accepted around the world by most of the countries,” he added.