MUMBAI (Reuters) – India may approve some coronavirus vaccines over the next few weeks and an estimated 300 million people would be innoculated in the first tranche, the country’s top health official said on Tuesday.
“There are multiple vaccine candidates in different stages of development and some of them may get licensed in the next few weeks,” federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a press briefing in New Delhi.
Over the weekend, Pfizer Inc sought emergency-use authorisation in India, followed by Astra Zeneca’s Covishield vaccine, which is being manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India.
Bhushan said India’s Bharat Biotech has also sought emergency-use authorization from the Indian drug regulator for its COVID-19 vaccine, called Covaxin, which it is developing in collaboration with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has identified 300 million people, including healthcare workers, policemen, and citizens above the age of 50, who would be administered a vaccine on a priority basis, Bhushan said.
“Every single Indian who needs to be vaccinated, will be vaccinated,” Bhushan said, adding that the government expected the vaccination process to take over a year to complete.
More than 154,000 healthcare workers had been identified to help conduct the vaccination drive and the country had enough cold chain capacity to innoculate the first 30 million people, Bhushan said.
India has recorded 9.7 million cases of the novel coronavirus – the second highest in the world – and more than 140,000 people have died of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, the country reported 26,567 new infections, the lowest daily increase since July 10, according to a Reuters tally.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai, Devjyot Ghoshal and Neha Arora in New Delhi; Editing by Bernadette Baum)