India has cleared emergency use of three vaccines so far (Representational)
The government has decided to fast-track emergency approval for Covid vaccines used in western nations and Japan, after the world's biggest surge in cases in the country. The plan is to increase the pace of vaccination with a bigger pool of vaccines.
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"We hope and we invite the vaccine makers such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and others...to be ready to come to India as early as possible," said VK Paul, chairman of the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration.
Vaccines authorised by the World Health Organization or authorities in the US, Europe, the UK and Japan "may be granted emergency use approval in India, mandating the requirement of post-approval parallel bridging clinical trial", the health ministry said.
With this, companies will not need to conduct small, local safety trials for their vaccines before seeking emergency approval.
Russian-made Covid vaccine Sputnik V has already been cleared for emergency use by the Drugs Controller General of India. Limited doses of the vaccine will likely be available by the end of this month or early next month.
Five more vaccines are expected to get approval this year. The list includes Johnson and Johnson (Bio E), Zydus Cadila, Serum's Novavax and a nasal vaccine from Bharat Biotech.
Since last week, several states said their vaccine stocks were running low. The list includes Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi, Telangana and Rajasthan. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, however, said Maharashtra were creating panic to deflect attention from its own inability to control the infection.
Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear that there should be no political blame game on vaccination. "I told you that you shouldn't worry a bit if the number of cases is high. Don't be under any kind of pressure that your performance is bad," he said.
The country is also trying to step up vaccination with PM Modi's call for a four-day "Tika Utsav".
India had started the world's largest vaccination programme on January 16 and so far, more than 10 crore doses have been administered.
Over the last 24 hours, the country logged 1,61,736 fresh Covid cases, pushing the s caseload to over 1.36 crore. The number of fatalities went up by 879, taking the total death count to 1,71,058.