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Last updated  7 January 2021

Being one of the worst-hit countries in Asia with more than 1.03 crore cases and a high fatality rate, India relies on mass vaccination drives to liberate it from the grasp of the aggravating pandemic. The government has entered into purchase agreements with Pfizer, Oxford University/AstraZeneca, Novovax, and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute. Meanwhile, domestically developed shots Covishield and Covaxin are also frontrunners of the vaccine research within the country.

The latter has the distinction of being India’s first indigenous vaccine. From the effectiveness of the jabs to how much it will cost you, here is everything you need to know about the Bharat Biotech vaccine in India.

About the Bharat Biotech India vaccine

In collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has been developing India’s first indigenous vaccine for the coronavirus BBV152, or commonly known as the COVAXIN. It is an inactivated virus-based vaccine, having a two-dose regimen, similar to most others.

The good part of Biotech’s jabs is that they don’t require special cold-storage facilities. Covaxin can be easily and conveniently stored at 2–8 degrees celsius, which is a regular refrigerator temperature.

Bharat Biotech has also signed a letter of intent with US-based biopharmaceutical start-up Ocugen to jointly develop Covaxin for the US market in the near future.

Updates on Covaxin rollout

On November 16, the company announced the start of its phase 3 clinical trial.

By January 3, it had successfully recruited 23,000 participants for its trial, out of the targeted 26,000. Those who wish to receive it will have to sign a consent form and will be followed up regularly thereafter. At the same time, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) also approved the vaccine for “restricted use in emergency situation in public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, to have more options for vaccinations, especially in case of infection by mutant strains.”

The spokesperson for the Karnataka chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Dr. Shrinivas S, has said that the vaccine shots will most probably be administered only in government circles and not be sold to the private sector or consumers, until and unless it is formally approved as a registered vaccine.

How effective is it?

The Phase-3 trials concluded on January 5, with individuals from all over India volunteering for the inoculation.

The ICMR/NIV/Biotech team hasn’t released the official results of the trials yet. However, according to a research firm involved in monitoring the trials in Karnataka, the results of the trials conducted in the state have been very positive.

The average efficacy observed was 60%-70%, but it went up to as high as 85%-90% in some subjects. No harmful side effects were observed.

According to Bharat Biotech’s Managing Director, Dr. Krishna Ella, the vaccine is “200% safe” when compared to other vaccines around the world. He has also stated that the vaccine is effective on mutant strains of the virus as well, and hypothesized its ability to safeguard against mutations in as little as a week.

How much will it cost?

Covaxin is likely to cost less than its competitor Covishield, which has been developed by the Serum Institute of India. Its exact price would largely depend upon the volume of the government’s procurement deal, which hasn’t been finalised yet.

It is speculated that the shots will be priced at INR 350 by Bharat Biotech.