India OKs AstraZeneca and locally-made COVID-19 vaccines

India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines on Jan. 3, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world's second most populous country.

India's drugs regulator gave an emergency authorization for the vaccines developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and another developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech.

Drugs Controller General Dr. Venugopal G Somani said that both vaccines will be administered in two dosages.
Somani said the decision to approve the vaccines was taken after "careful examination" by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, India's pharmaceutical regulator.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the vaccine approval a "decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight."
"Congratulations India," Modi tweeted.

The country's initial immunization plan aims to vaccinate 300 million people, health care workers, front-line staff including police and those considered vulnerable due to their age or other diseases, by August 2021. For effective distribution, over 20,000 health workers have been trained so far to administer the vaccine, the Health Ministry said.

But this will be a challenge for India. Despite having one of the largest immunization programs, it isn't geared around adults and vaccine coverage remains patchy. Neither vaccine requires the ultra-cold storage facilities that some others do. Instead they can be stored in refrigerators, making them more feasible for the country.

Although the world's largest vaccine manufacturing company doesn't have a written agreement with the Indian government, its Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said at a virtual briefing on Monday that India would be "given priority" and would receive...

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