As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the government had announced last month that it would be working to bring foreign-made vaccines into India. The update came even as India approved a third vaccine for emergency usage in mid-April and expanded the inoculation drive to include all adults. Such vaccines would be now expected to undergo a local clinical trial within 30 days of receiving authorisation.
But while the process has been simplified, India is yet to receive a strong response from vaccine makers. Pfizer and Moderna for example remain hesitant to apply even as reports indicate that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be imported to India by June or July 2021.
On Monday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said said that the company is in discussions with the Indian government seeking an "expedited approval pathway" for its COVID-19 vaccine. "Unfortunately, our vaccine is not registered in India although our application was submitted months ago," he wrote in a LinkedIn post.
Earlier this year, the company had withdrawn its initial application over the rules stipulating a local trial. And going by recent reports this is a stance that the company continues to maintain. A company spokesperson told Reuters on Monday that Pfizer had sought an exception to even the current trial rules. "Pfizer's application for emergency use authorization was supported with data that shows an overall efficacy rate of 95% with no safety concerns," the official reminded.
Towards the end of April, the company had said that it would supply vaccines to India only through government channels. This would mean that the vaccine would not be available at private inoculation centres unless the Centre or state sold these doses to them.
Bourla further said that they are donating medicines worth more than 70 million USD, to be made available for every public health facility in India free of cost. As he explained, this included steroid medications to reduce inflammation, anticoagulants to help prevent blood clotting, and antibiotics that treat secondary bacterial infections.
(with inputs from agencies)