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Poonam Singh

New Delhi: Eleven months after the first case of deadly coronavirus was detected in India, Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) V.G. Somani on Sunday approved Bharat Biotech's 'Covaxin' and Serum Institute of India's 'Covishield' vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for their roll-out and administration to millions.

This is a major relief for India which has the second highest number of infections in the world, after the US. The Central government plans to vaccinate nearly 30 crore people in the first phase of drive in the next six to eight months.

The vaccine will be first offered to one crore healthcare workers, along with two crore frontline and essential workers and 27 crore elderly, mostly above the age of 50 years with co-morbidities.

The Subject Expert Committee, tasked with vetting the vaccine proposals, had recommended Oxford-Astra Zeneca's 'Covishield' and Bharat Biotech's indigenous 'Covaxin' for emergency use approval on January 1 and 2, respectively. The final call was to be taken by the DCGI.

The expert panel recommended granting permission for restricted emergency use of 'Covaxin' in "public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, specially in the context of infection by mutant strains.

Pune-based Serum Institute of India has partnered with Oxford-AstraZeneca for conducting clinical trials and manufacturing 'Covishield', while Bharat Biotech has collaborated with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for 'Covaxin'.

Serum and Bharat Biotech Pfizer had applied for the accelerated approval on December 6 and 7, respectively.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  also hailed the approval given to two coronavirus vaccines as a "decisive turning point" in the spirited fight against the pandemic which will accelerates the road to a healthier and COVID-free nation.

In a series of tweets after the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) approved Oxford's vaccine Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for restricted emergency use, Modi said it will make every Indian proud that both the vaccines are made in India.

"This shows the eagerness of our scientific community to fulfil the dream of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, at the root of which is care and compassion," he said, congratulting the nation, scientists and innovators.

"We reiterate our gratitude to doctors, medical staff, scientists, police personnel, sanitation workers and all Corona warriors for the outstanding work done, that too in adverse circumstances. We will remain eternally grateful to them for saving many lives." added the PM.

The UK and Argentina have already approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. More than five crore doses of the vaccine have already been stockpiled by its manufacturer, Serum Institute of India.

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will play a major role in India's plan to vaccinate its population against Covid-19 due to several factors -- low-cost, ease of storage and transport.

Serum Institute of India this week said it has a stockpiled 40-50 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. India is likely to receive a majority of these 50 million doses.

As far as Bharat Biotech's Covaxin is concerned, it is India's first indigenous vaccine for coronavirus. The inactivated virus vaccine is being developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

(With IANS Inputs)

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