India World

India orders 300 million doses of unapproved coronavirus vaccine amid devastating second wave

India ordered 300 million doses of an unapproved coronavirus vaccine amid the devastating second wave.

The unnamed vaccine from Indian firm Biological E is in Phase 3 trials, and had showed “promising results” in the first two phases, the federal government said in a statement.

The $206 million order is the first India has signed for a jab that has not received emergency approval.

This comes as the country struggles to speed up its lagging vaccine drive.

India has administered just over 220 million jabs so far, although much of its 1.4 billion population is now eligible for the vaccine. Less than 15% of the country has received at least one dose of the vaccination, largely because of a severe shortage of doses.

Although Covid-19 case numbers have been dropping, India is still adding more than 100,000 news cases a day. It has recorded more than 340,000 deaths from the virus so far, but experts say the number is vastly underestimated.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for not placing huge orders ahead of time with either Indian or foreign vaccine makers.

There are currently two vaccines being manufactured locally. The Serum Institute of India (SII) makes Covishield (under licence from AstraZeneca), whilst the second largest producer, Bharat Biotech, makes the locally-developed Covaxin.

The Sputnik V vaccine, which was approved for use in April, is also now available, with three million doses supplied by Russia.

Public health experts say poor planning, piecemeal procuring and unregulated pricing by the government has turned India’s vaccine drive into a deeply unfair competition for state governments.