As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the government announced last month that it would work to introduce overseas-made vaccines to India. The update came even as India approved a third vaccine for emergency use in mid-April and expanded the vaccination campaign to include all adults. It is now expected that these vaccines will now undergo a local clinical trial within 30 days of receiving authorization.
But while the process has been streamlined, India has yet to receive a firm response from vaccine makers. Pfizer and Moderna, for example, remain hesitant to apply even as reports indicate the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be imported to India by June or July 2021.
On Monday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company was in talks with the Indian government looking for a “fast-track approval path” for its COVID-19 vaccine. “Unfortunately, our vaccine is not registered in India although our request was submitted months ago,” he wrote in a post on LinkedIn.
Earlier this year, the company withdrew its original claim on the rules stipulating a local trial. And according to recent reports, this is a position the company continues to maintain. A company spokesperson told Reuters on Monday that Pfizer had requested an exception to the current testing rules. “Pfizer’s emergency use authorization application was supported by data which shows an overall efficacy rate of 95% without any safety concerns,” the official recalled.
Towards the end of April, the company said it would only deliver vaccines to India through government channels. This would mean that the vaccine would not be available in private inoculation centers unless the center or the state sold them those doses.
Bourla further said that they are donating drugs worth more than $ 70 million, which will be made available free of charge to every public health facility in India. As he explained, this included steroid drugs to reduce inflammation, blood thinners to help prevent blood clotting, and antibiotics that treat secondary bacterial infections.
(with contributions from agencies)