India approves AstraZeneca and local COVID vaccines, roll out seen soon
India’s drugs regulator on Sunday approved for emergency use two coronavirus vaccines, one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and the other by local company Bharat Biotech and a state-run institute.
The decisions mark the first vaccine approvals in India, which after the United States has recorded the most infections of the novel coronavirus, and could enable the country to source vaccines locally.
India is expected to start a massive immunization program within about a week and hopes to inoculate 300 million of its 1.35 billion people free of charge in the first six to eight months of this year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the approvals.
“It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India!” he said on Twitter, calling it a sign of a “self-reliant” country.
India has reported more than 10.3 million COVID-19 cases and around 150,000 deaths, though its infection rate has come down significantly from a mid-September peak.