The world's second most populous country has approved two coronavirus vaccines, one of which is AZD1222 developed by AstraZeneca (AZN) in collaboration with the University of Oxford. On Sunday, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) granted emergency use approval to AZD1222 (known as Covishield in India) and Covaxin, a vaccine developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech.
This is the second major regulatory authorization for AZD1222 in the space of a week. Last Wednesday, the U.K. healthcare regulator granted it similar approval for emergency use.
AstraZeneca/Oxford should be able to deploy their vaccine quickly in India. The vaccine is being produced by the Serum Institute of India, which is the largest vaccine maker in the world. According to the institute, it can produce over 50 million doses per month.
As with other coronavirus vaccines that have recently won approval in major markets, AZD 1222 is given in two doses. These are separated anywhere from four to 12 weeks apart.
It has one significant advantage over its rivals, however, in that it can be stored at temperatures such as those found within an ordinary household refrigerator. Pfizer and BioNTech's BNT162b2 requires storage in much colder environments, and Moderna's mRNA-1273 also has notable low-temperature storage requirements.
This keep-it-in-the-refrigerator characteristic of AZD1222 is ideal for India, parts of which can hit triple-digit degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.
Neither AstraZeneca nor the University has yet commented officially on the approval in India. The BBC quoted the country's prime minister Narendra Modi as describing it as "a decisive turning point" in its fight against the coronavirus.