India orders unapproved COVID shots from local firm Biological-E during second wave

The government will buy 300 million vaccine doses from local firm Biological-E and has put down an advance of $205.6 million, the health ministry said, even though the vaccine is still going through Phase III clinical trials.

India signed its first order for an unapproved COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, a day after criticism from the Supreme Court over its bungled vaccine rollout that has left millions of people vulnerable after almost 338,000 deaths.

So far, only 4.7% of the 950 million adult population have been given two vaccine doses. The world’s second most populous country is reeling from a widespread second wave of infections that killed around 170,000 people in April and May alone.

“The arrangement with Biological-E is part of the wider endeavour of the government of India to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research & development and also financial support,” the ministry said in a statement.

India has been inoculating its people with AstraZeneca shots produced at the Serum Institute of India, as well as Covaxin made by local firm Bharat Biotech, and is set to commercially launch Russia’s Sputnik V in mid-June.

But supplies are running short after the government opened vaccinations to all adults last month. Some vaccination centres have had to close down, prompting criticism from the Supreme Court about a lack of planning.


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