India clears two more vaccines - Covovax and Corbevax - and anti-viral drug Molnupiravir

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A health worker administers a dose of Covaxin in West Bengal, India  (AP)
A health worker administers a dose of Covaxin in West Bengal, India (AP)

India on Tuesday cleared two more Covid-19 vaccines and an anti-viral pill for emergency use amid fears of a rapid spike in cases related to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

India’s first homegrown RBD protein sub-unit vaccine Corbevax, made by Hyderabad-based firm Biological E, and Serum Institute of India’s version of Novavax’s shot Covovax have been approved by the drug regulator.

So far, six other Covid-19 vaccines — Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Serum Institute’s Covishield, Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D, Russia’s Sputnik V, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen — have received authorisation in India.

Merck’s anti-viral drug Molnupiravir will be manufactured by 13 companies in the country for restricted use under emergency situation for treatment of adult patients, federal health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Tuesday.

India’s approval for the anti-viral pill comes a few days after the United States approved the drug for certain high-risk adult patients. The pill has shown to reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 30 per cent in clinical trials. The United Kingdom had granted conditional authorisation to the pill in November.

“All these approvals will further strengthen the global fight against the pandemic,” Mr Mandaviya said in a tweet. “Our pharma industries are assets for the entire world.”

Last week, prime minister Narendra Modi announced that India would administer booster shots against Covid to frontline workers and citizens over the age of 60 with co-morbidities from 10 January. He added that teenagers aged between 15 and 18 would start receiving Covid-19 vaccinations from 3 January, asserting that vaccinating children would facilitate their return to schools.

So far, the second populous country in the world has reported 653 Covid cases of the Omicron variant in 21 states and Union Territories, the health ministry said. On Tuesday, the country reported 6,358 cases of coronavirus infections, taking its total tally of infections to 3,499,691. As many as 480,290 have died of the infection so far.

At least 90 per cent of India’s adult population has received one dose of the Covid vaccine, while 62 per cent have taken the second jab.

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