Modi's Vaccine Nationalism: India's Hasty Approval of Homegrown COVID19 Vaccine
Indian drug regulator has approved COVAXIN, a Covid19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech. The approval has been granted without completing large-scale phase 3 trials in India, according to media reports. It is India's first indigenous vaccine co-developed with Pennsylvania-based startup Ocugen. Ocugen, led by Indian-American scientists, does not currently sell any products. India is the world's second worst-hit country by the global coronavirus pandemic. Critics say the hasty approval of the homegrown Indian vaccine is motivated by "chest thumping nationalism".
|How COVAXIN Works. Source: NY Times|
Ocugen is a US-based biotech company. It has no track record. It has not developed any drugs and doesn't have any products to sell yet. This lack of experience makes Ocugen a strange choice for an international commercialization partner, according to an investment analysis published in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration has made it clear that it won't authorize a coronavirus vaccine without data from a phase 3 trial conducted in the United States. NASDAQ-listed Ocugen stock has soared since the approval of COVAXIN for use in India.
Bharat Biotech is an Indian biotechnology company based in the South Indian city of Hyderabad.
Dr. Krishna Ella, the Chairman of the Bharat Biotech, has claimed that they are "no way" inferior to Pfizer in terms of coronavirus vaccine. He also said that Bharat Biotech is the only firm to have published five articles on the Covid-19 vaccine process, according to media reports.
Some critics have dismissed COVAXIN approval as a manifestation of "chest thumping nationalism". Bloomberg's Andy Mukherjee has a story entitled "COVAXIN: Science, not pride will help India build trust in this vaccine".
Indian government's decision to authorize COVAXIN has been sharply criticized by public interest groups in India. “The decision to approve an incompletely studied vaccine, even under accelerated process, raises more questions than answers and likely will not reinforce faith in our scientific decision-making bodies,” Malini Aisola, of the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), an independent collective of healthcare non-profits, said in a statement.
India has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic with over 10 million infections, second only to the United States. Indian economy has shrunk by double digits. Tens of millions of daily wage earners who make up the bulk of India's workforce have lost their livelihoods. Prime Minister Narendra's Modi's decision to impose a sudden nationwide lockdown is blamed for it.
COVAXIN is India's first indigenously developed vaccine that has just been approved for emergency use in the country. It has been co-developed with US-based Ocugen. COVAXIN's hasty approval without any phase 3 efficacy data has come under sharp criticism. Some critics have dismissed COVAXIN approval as a manifestation of "chest thumping nationalism". Bloomberg's Andy Mukherjee has a story entitled "COVAXIN: Science, not pride will help India build trust in this vaccine".
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