India on Thursday launched the 'world’s first' intranasal COVID-19 vaccine developed by local pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech.
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Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya launched the iNcovacc vaccine on a day when the country is celebrating its 74th Republic Day.
“iNcovacc is the world’s first intranasal COVID-19 vaccine to receive approval for the primary 2-dose schedule, and as a heterologous booster dose,” a Health Ministry’s statement said on Thursday.
Calling it a “mighty display of India's research and innovation prowess under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership," Mandaviya said it is a "historic achievement and a testimony to the innovative zeal of our scientists.”
The ministry said the vaccine is cost-effective and does not require "syringes, needles, alcohol wipes, bandage, etc., saving costs related to procurement, distribution, storage, and biomedical waste disposal, that is routinely required for injectable vaccines."
“It utilizes a vector-based platform, which can be easily updated with emerging variants leading to large-scale production, within a few months. These rapid response timelines combined with the ability of cost-effective and easy intranasal delivery makes it an ideal vaccine to address future infectious diseases,” the statement said.
A statement by the manufacturer said that the rollout of the vaccine is expected to begin in private hospitals that have placed advance orders.
“Initial manufacturing capacity of several million doses per annum has been established, and this can be scaled up to a billion doses as required,” the company said, adding that it is priced at Indian rupees 325/dose (approx. $4) for large volume procurement by governments, and Indian rupees 800 (approx. $10) for the private market.
As of Wednesday, the country's active caseload stood at 1,922. The ministry said that the weekly positivity rate is 0.08%. Over 2.2 billion vaccine doses have been administered so far under the nationwide vaccination drive. ■