Bharat Biotech, a privately held company, is developing COVAXIN with the Indian Government-run Medical Research Council.

A government-backed COVID-19 vaccine could hit the market as early as February – months earlier than expected – as the final studies begin this month and studies so far have shown it to be safe and effective, a said senior government scientist told Reuters News Agency.

Bharat Biotech, a private company that is developing COVAXIN with the government-run Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), had previously hoped it would not be launched until the second quarter of next year.

“The vaccine has shown good effectiveness,” said senior ICMR scientist Rajni Kant, who is also a member of the COVID-19 task force, at the research facility’s headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday.

“It is expected that something will be available early next year, February or March.”

According to Reuters, Bharat Biotech could not be immediately reached for comment.

A scientist works in a laboratory at the Serum Institute of India in Pune [File: Euan Rocha/Reuters]A launch in February would make COVAXIN the first Indian-made vaccine to be launched.

India’s number of coronavirus infections rose by 50,201 on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 8.36 million – the second highest number in the world after the United States. The deaths rose by 704 to 124,315.

The daily increase in infections and deaths has slowed since a peak in mid-September.

Kant, head of the ICMR’s research, policy, planning and coordination cell, said it was up to the health ministry to decide whether COVAXIN recordings can be given to people before the third-stage studies are completed.

“It has shown safety and effectiveness in the Phase 1 and 2 studies, as well as in animal studies. So it’s safe, but you can’t be 100% sure if the Phase 3 trials aren’t finished,” Kant said.

“There can be some risk. When you are ready to take the risk, you can take the vaccine. If necessary, the government can remember to give the vaccine in an emergency. “

Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in September the government was considering issuing an emergency permit for a COVID-19 vaccine, particularly for the elderly and people in high-risk workplaces.

Several leading vaccine candidates are already in the final stages of testing. An experimental vaccine developed by the UK’s AstraZeneca is among the most advanced and the UK expects to launch it in late December or early 2021.

AstraZeneca has signed several supply and manufacturing agreements with companies and governments around the world, including the Serum Institute of India.

Other vaccines that are currently being tested are being developed by Moderna Inc, Pfizer Inc with partners BioNTech SE and Johnson & Johnson.

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