Amidst a surge in Covid-19 cases in China and some other countries, the health ministry today approved the intranasal needle-free Covid-19 vaccine, iNCOVACC (BBV154) developed by Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech. The vaccine will be available on the Co-WIN platform for persons aged above 18 years for primary 2 dose schedule, homologous booster doses, from Friday evening.
In November, the Drugs Controller General of India and Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDCSO) approved the intranasal vaccine for restricted use in emergency situations for people aged 18 years and above. It is the country’s first intranasal vaccine for Covid-19. The country already has Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Covavax, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Russian vaccine Sputnik V, and Biological E Ltd’s Corbevax as listed Covid-19 vaccines in Co-WIN portal.
According to the government, the intranasal vaccine has the double benefits of enabling faster development of variant-specific vaccines and easy nasal delivery that enables mass immunization to protect from emerging variants of concern.
“Vaccine is a recombinant replication deficient adenovirus vectored vaccine with a pre-fusion stabilized spike protein. This vaccine candidate was evaluated in Phases I, II and III clinical trials with successful results. It has been specifically formulated to allow intranasal delivery through nasal drops. The nasal delivery system has been designed and developed to be cost-effective in low- and middle-income countries,” the government said in a statement earlier.
The development comes a day after Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday said that considering concerns around the Covid-19 surge in China, Japan, South Korea, and some of the western countries, India has stepped up the processes to make sure it is ready to meet any eventuality. "We are ready to fulfill the country's needs for medicines and vaccines. Nasal vaccine has been approved by the expert committee. This, too, has been developed by the scientists of India, which is an achievement," the minister said.
He said the government has started the random RT-PCR sampling of international passengers across airports, and is ready to fight the infectious virus. On a sudden surge in Covid cases in China, the minister said though there's no direct flight to India from China, and that the government is constantly engaged with global agencies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and has stepped up testing efforts to track international passengers.
The central government has also asked all states and Union Territories (UTs) to step up their vigil against Covid-19 cases and ensure that samples of all positive cases, on a daily basis, are sent to the designated Genome Sequencing Laboratories (lGSLs) that are part of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACoG) network spread across the country.
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