Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that a locally developed COVID-19 vaccine candidate could complete its final trials in a month or two, raising hopes of a rapid rollout in the country with the second largest number of infections in the world.
The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and private company Bharat Biotech launched third-stage trials of COVAXIN this month, in a process that reportedly involves 26,000 volunteers.
It is the most advanced Indian experimental vaccine. “We are in the process of developing our native vaccines, completing our third phase trials in the next one or two months,” Harsh Vardhan said at an online conference on the pandemic.
He said the government’s plan was to immunize 200-250 million Indians by July.
An ICMR scientist told Reuters earlier this month that the vaccine could be launched in February or March, although Bharat Biotech separately told Reuters on Friday that results of late-stage trials were only expected. ‘between March and April.
However, Harsh Vardhan said in September that the government may opt for emergency authorization of vaccines, especially for the elderly and people in high-risk workplaces. Officials said they plan to rely on COVAXIN and four other locally tested candidates to control COVID-19 because they do not expect early access to sufficient quantities of those developed by Pfizer and Moderna.
Other investigational vaccines being tested in India are that developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India; Russia’s Sputnik-V; ZyCoV-D from Zydus Cadila and finally the one that Biological E Ltd is developing with Baylor College of Medicine and Dynavax Technologies Corp.
The CEO of Serum Institute of India said on Friday that the AstraZeneca vaccine could be delivered to healthcare workers and the elderly by January.