Coronavirus vaccine update: SII seeks emergency approval for Covishield jab, Punjab wants vaccine priority

Coronavirus vaccine update: The Serum Institute of India (SII), which is conducting the India trials of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, has sought emergency use authorisation from the Indian drug regulator for the vaccine. The Covishield vaccine recently came under scrutiny after a volunteer claimed he suffered an illness following the dosage.

Pfizer too has sought approval for usage in India while its coronavirus vaccine dose is already awaiting mass rollout in Britain next week. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is likely to be among the first few to get the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine along with her husband Prince Philip.

SII seeks vaccine approval

The Pune-based drugmaker Serum Institute of India has sought emergency use authorisation from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) citing public interest at large and the ongoing health crisis.

The Covishield vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which is undergoing late-stage trials in India, came under heavy scrutiny after a Chennai volunteer claimed he suffered neurological issues following the dosage. However, the claims were ruled out by the drug controller and SII saying the illness was not due to the vaccine dose.

According to ICMR, SII has already manufactured 40 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine under the at-risk manufacturing and stockpiling license it obtained from the DCGI.

Punjab seeks vaccine priority from Centre

The Capt Amarinder Singh government in Punjab has sought priority in vaccine rollout in India citing the high Covid-19 mortality rate in the state.

CM Amarinder Singh has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure priority allocation of coronavirus vaccine to Punjab. In a letter to PM Modi, CM Amarinder Singh said despite its relatively low caseload, Punjab has higher fatality rate due to coronavirus, and, therefore, it needs special attention in the allocation of the vaccine once available.

Punjab has so far witnessed 1.55 lakh coronavirus cases and 4,905 deaths.

Pfizer seeks approval in India

SII’s request comes soon after US pharma giant Pfizer Inc became the first to seek emergency use approval in India when it sought approval from DCGI. Pfizer has been approved for mass rollout in UK beginning next week. Pfizer vaccine has also been approved in Bahrain.

“Pfizer India has submitted an application on December 4 to the DCGI seeking emergency use authorization (EUA) for its Covid-19 vaccine in India,” a source said.

However, experts in India are not too hopeful of the use of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in India given its major logistical requirements of storage at -70 degrees Celsius, which is difficult in a developing nation such as India.

Freezers that can be used to store the coronavirus vaccine are seen at the Pfizer manufacturing facility in Michigan, US. (via Reuters)

Queen Elizabeth may get early Pfizer vaccine

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who is 94, and her husband Prince Philip (99) could be among the first few in UK to get the Pfizer vaccine dose once UK begins the vaccine rollout. Elderly care home residents and their carers will be the very first to get the vaccine dose, followed by those aged 80 and over and frontline health and care staff.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine within weeks, after UK regulators granted emergency approval and the world’s first roll-out begins next week, reports late Saturday said.

Russia begins vaccine rollout, China prepares

Provincial governments across China are placing orders for experimental, domestically made coronavirus vaccines, though health officials have yet to say how well they work or how they may reach the country’s 1.4 billion people.

China has at least five vaccines from four producers being tested in more than a dozen countries including Russia, Egypt and Mexico.

Meanwhile, Russia has already begun its vaccine rollout drive with the administration of Sputnik-V vaccine on the masses. The task force said the Russian-made vaccine would first be made available to doctors and other medical workers, teachers and social workers because they ran the highest risk of exposure to the disease.

(With inputs from agencies)

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