A World Health Organisation technical advisory group was yesterday reviewing data on India’s Covaxin shot against Covid-19 with a decision on its emergency use listing likely soon, a spokesperson said.
“If all is in place and all goes well and if the committee is satisfied, we would expect a recommendation within the next 24 hours or so,” Margaret Harris told journalists at a UN press briefing.
Millions of Indians have taken the shot produced by Bharat Biotech but many have been unable to travel pending the WHO approval. “I cannot continue to remain idle here any further,” said 57-year-old Sugathan P R who has been stuck in a village in southern India for nine months and unable to return to his job in Saudi Arabia. Sugathan had returned to Pandalam village in Kerala from Saudi Arabia in January to be with his family after missing his father’s funeral last year when the pandemic disrupted flights.
“I had the option of going to Saudi and taking (additional doses of) Covishield after a four-day institutional quarantine, but I was not sure of its implications on my health,” said Sugathan, referring to AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
“If the Covaxin approval does not come, I will try going and taking a Saudi-approved vaccine,” he added, sitting in his spacious two-storey house fronted by paddy fields.
The WHO has deliberated on data supplied by manufacturer Bharat Biotech since early July but has said it could not “cut corners “ in making a decision.
Without a WHO nod, the two-dose Covaxin is unlikely to be accepted as a valid vaccine globally and would complicate travel plans for Indians who have taken it.
Rajan Pallivadakethil Unnunni, 59, who worked in Kuwait as a welder for two decades before flying to India late last year, has been unable to go back as Kuwait does not recognise Covaxin.
He is now struggling to repay his $20,000 bank loan selling chicken at a small stall in Kerala and making $4 a day.
“If I cannot go back to Kuwait, I will not be able to repay the loan and complete the education of my children,” said Rajan, seated on a plastic stool in front of his shop. “I can buy a ticket to Kuwait only if the Kuwait government app shows a green signal.”
In a related development India’s health minister yesterday said that a government panel of experts was looking into a Delta coronavirus subvariant, AY.4.2, that has been detected in the UK.
The UK Health Security Agency said last week that it was investigating AY.4.2 as it was possibly more transmissible than Delta, though there was no evidence that it caused more severe disease or rendered vaccines ineffective.
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