We trust Indian industry: WHO official on Covaxin EUL

We trust Indian industry, Bharat Biotech has been submitting data regularly: WHO official on Covaxin EUL

Bharat Biotech had submitted EOI to the WHO on April 19 for the vaccine's EUL

A vial of Covaxin. Credit: AFP Photo

India's Bharat Biotech has been submitting data on the EUL of Covaxin “regularly and very quickly” to a technical committee which hopes to have a final recommendation to the WHO next week, a top official of the global health agency said on Thursday, stressing that the UN body "trusts" the Indian industry that manufactures high quality vaccines.

Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, which has developed Covaxin, had submitted EOI (Expression of Interest) to the World Health Organisation on April 19 for the vaccine's Emergency Use Listing (EUL).

A technical advisory group of the UN health agency which met on Tuesday has sought "additional clarifications" from Bharat Biotech for Covaxin to conduct a final “risk-benefit assessment” for Emergency Use Listing of the vaccine. The technical advisory group will now meet on November 3 for a final assessment.

"Bharat has been submitting data regularly and very quickly, but they submitted the last batch of data on the 18th of October,” Dr Mariangela Simao, Assistant Director General, Access to Medicines and Health Products at WHO, said at a press briefing in Geneva.

She was responding to a question on the delay in granting the Emergency Use Listing to Covaxin while Chinese vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac were given approval even “with lack of data.”

Simao said that when the technical advisory group met on October 26 to discuss the EUL for Covaxin, they asked Bharat Biotech for additional clarifications.

She said WHO is in touch with Bharat Biotech and has "daily conversations” and calls and meetings “clarifying what additional data needs" to be submitted to the technical expert group.

"Let me just clarify and without wanting to mention any specific manufacturer but saying that we have assessed an Indian manufacturer earlier in the year and it took 30 days,” she said, a reference to the Serum Institute of India which manufactures the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine.

"So this is not about moving quicker with one or another vaccine…We really trust the Indian industry. India produces different majority of vaccines in the world, high quality vaccines. We are right now at the last stage of the assessment by this external advisory group and we hope to have a final recommendation to the WHO next week. I hope that's well understood.”

Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and AstraZeneca and Oxford University's Covishield are the two widely used vaccines in India.

The WHO has so far approved Covid-19 vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-SK Bio/Serum Institute of India, Johnson & Johnson-Janssen, Moderna, and Sinopharm for emergency use.