Reuters/ New Delhi
All Indian children aged 12 or older will become eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations from next month, when drug maker Cadila Healthcare launches its ZyCoV-D product, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter disclosed.
The world’s first DNA-based Covid-19 vaccine, ZyCoV-D won emergency authorisation from Indian regulators last month.
From October, the company, better known as Zydus Cadila, will produce 10mn doses a month. The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The sources sought anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to media. The vaccine is the only one approved for children in India, which has given a total of 825.9mn doses to adults among its population of nearly 1.4bn.
Meanwhile, the government is likely to allow a smaller gap between AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses for inoculations being carried out privately, in line with a court order, the sources said.
Private hospitals and clinics will give their paying patients the option to receive their second dose of the vaccine four weeks after the first, down from between 12 and 16 weeks currently, they said.
Earlier this month, the high court in the southern state of Kerala ordered changes in the health ministry’s vaccine-booking platform to give people paying for vaccination this choice, which is already being offered to those flying abroad.
“Since the high court has given a judgement, it will have to be done,” said one of the sources. “For the government’s programme, the ideal gap remains 12 weeks.”
India doubled the gap between the AstraZeneca vaccine’s two doses in May to make sure more people were inoculated with at least one dose when supplies were scarce at the height of the country’s outbreak this year.
AstraZeneca recommends the second dose of its Covid-19 vaccine be taken four weeks after the first shot, but says on its website there is a “trend of increased efficacy with a longer than 4 week dosing interval”.
The World Health Organisation recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks.
The sources, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media, could not say when the changes will be implemented.
India’s total vaccine output has trebled since May to 300mn doses a month.
Less than a quarter of the production is sold by private hospitals while the rest is provided by the government free of cost.
Meanwhile, vaccine maker Serum Institute of India (SII) will invest £50mn ($68mn) in Oxford Biomedica to help fund the development of a plant that manufactures Covid-19 shots, the British company said yesterday.
Serum — the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume — and Oxford Biomedica both produce AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.
Serum Life Sciences, a unit of India-based SII, will pick up a 3.9% stake in Oxford Biomedica as part of the deal.
Oxford Biomedica, spun off from Oxford University in 1995, said it would use the funds to develop the fallow area at its Oxbox plant into a manufacturing space expected to come online in mid-2023.
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