WHO says it ‘can’t cut corners’ in approving Indian shooting of Covaxin – Journal
BENGALURU: The World Health Organization on Monday requested additional data from Indian company Bharat Biotech to review the company’s request for an emergency use list for its Covid-19 shot, saying the WHO could not “cut corners” in making a decision.
Bharat Biotech, which developed Covaxin with an Indian state research organization, began sharing data with the WHO from early July. The vaccine received emergency use clearance in India in January even before an advanced stage trial ended, which later found the vaccine to be 78% effective.
Without a nod from the WHO, it is unlikely that two-dose Covaxin would be accepted as a valid vaccine around the world and would complicate the travel plans of the tens of millions of Indians who have taken it. Covaxin accounts for 11pc of the 985.5 million total doses administered in India, and has also been exported.
“We are aware that many people are waiting for the WHO recommendation that Covaxin be included in the # COVID19 emergency use list, but we cannot compromise,” the WHO said on Twitter.
“Before recommending a product for emergency use, we must carefully evaluate it to make sure it is safe and effective.” The WHO was waiting today for “additional information from the company,” she added, without specifying it.
Bharat Biotech, which struggled to meet Covaxin production deadlines, did not immediately comment.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Sunday that its technical advisory group will meet on October 26 to review the listing of Covaxin. She said WHO’s goal was “to have a large portfolio of vaccines approved for emergency use and to expand access to populations around the world.”
India is the world’s largest producer of vaccines, with a capacity to make more than 3 billion Covid vaccines per year, mainly that of AstraZeneca.
Dose deviation outweighs skipping output
India’s vaccination campaign has slowed despite the build-up of record vaccine stocks, data from the Ministry of Health showed on Monday, as authorities maintain a wider-than-usual gap between doses in a strategy which strengthened the coverage.
Domestic production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which accounts for almost 90% of doses administered, has more than tripled since May, when a supply shortage prompted India to double the period between doses to between 12 and 16 weeks.
This gap, exceeding the 8 to 12 weeks recommended by the World Health Organization, has allowed India to give at least one dose of the vaccine to 74% of its 944 million adults, of which only 30% are receiving the vaccine. ‘entirety of both.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield, accounts for 861 million doses of India’s total injected figure of 977.6 million, while its other main vaccine, Covaxin, has a dose interval of four to six weeks.
In the past few days, daily stocks of all Covid-19 vaccines have exceeded 100 million doses, according to Department of Health figures, for states and federally-controlled territories taken together.
In contrast, daily vaccinations have fallen to an average of 5 million doses this month and even fewer last week, from a daily peak of 25 million last month.
The ministry said it was following the recommendations of a panel of experts to make dosage changes, obtained by weighing “scientific and empirical” evidence.
Posted in Dawn, le 19 October 2021