The latest on the pandemic

A Bharat Biotech COVAXIN dose at a government hospital on March 6 in Barpeta, India.
A Bharat Biotech COVAXIN dose at a government hospital on March 6 in Barpeta, India. David Talukdar/NurPhoto/Getty Images

India’s locally developed vaccine, Covaxin, has been given the same emergency use licensure as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the country’s Health Ministry announced Thursday.

Covaxin has been part of the nation’s vaccine rollout since January 16. However, it was rolled out under “clinical trial mode,” which meant that patients had to sign informed consent forms and required subsequent monitoring.

More than 1.9 million doses of Covaxin have already been administered.

Now, Phase 3 trials have shown an efficacy rate of 81%, and the vaccine has been granted approval under the “regular” emergency use authorization.

“This has taken the authorization for Covaxin to the next level, the same level at which another great vaccine Covishield has been operating,” said V K Paul of Niti Ayog, an Indian government-led think tank.

Rising cases: The approval comes as India battles a spike in infections. On Friday, the country recorded 23,139 new cases — the highest 24-hour increase for the second day in a row since Christmas Day.

That raises the country’s total to 11,308,846 cases and 158,306 related deaths, according to the Indian Ministry of Health.

The western state of Maharashtra accounts for nearly 60% of new cases, marking a “worrisome” trend, said Dr. Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. 

The surge is “related to the reduced number of testing, tracking and tracing as well as Covid-inappropriate behaviors and large gatherings,” said Bhargava at a press briefing on Thursday.

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