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India aims Covaxin trial in Bangladesh to enhance its recognition abroad

  • Gautam Lahiri
  • 2nd August, 2021 10:51:06 PM
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New Delhi: The government of India, in a bid to enhance the recognition of indigenous coronavirus vaccine ‘Covaxin’ that has been jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), plans to facilitate its clinical trials in Bangladesh.

India media quoting an internal government document reported that the government has secured approval for funding the clinical trials in Bangladesh. The Indian government, through its missions abroad, also facilitated the regulatory approval of Covaxin by drug regulators in various countries.

According to people familiar with the developments in New Delhi and Dhaka, the Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) approved the trials of Covaxin in the country on July 18, reports Hindustan Times.

BMRC Chairman Syed Modasser Ali, the former health adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, signed off on the move, the people said.

“To enhance the recognition of Covaxin abroad, especially in the neighbourhood, a proposal was mooted for its trials in Bangladesh. Towards this end, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) facilitated the visit of a team of officials from Department of Biotechnology and Bharat Biotech to Dhaka to discuss the proposal with Bangladeshi officials. MEA also obtained approval for funding the clinical trials in Bangladesh. The trials can begin upon approval by Bangladeshi authorities,” reads the Hindustan Times report on Monday.

Earlier this month, the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech released data from the final analysis of Covaxin and said that the vaccine demonstrated overall efficacy of 77.8% against symptomatic infection.

Reuters reported in January, citing an official at Bangladesh’s medical research body that Bharat Biotech applied to conduct trials for Covaxin in the country. However, no Covaxin doses have been supplied to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh government has so far approved emergency use of the Oxford AstraZeneca (Covishield), Pfizer, Moderna, Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines. Bangladesh is administering AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Sinopharm vaccines.

Bangladesh has already received millions of doses of vaccines from India, USA, China and Japan as gift or under COVAX facility and under the commercial deals.

India has so far provided 3.3 million Covishield doses as gift and 7 million doses under commercial deal between the two countries. China also provided 2.1 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine as gift and others under commercial agreement.

The approval of trial of Covaxin from Bangladesh apparently followed a push from the Indian side.

However, the people cited above said that there wasn’t much interest in Covaxin in some quarters in Bangladesh as the country has signed agreements with China for 30 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine and is set to ink a separate deal for millions of doses of Russia’s Sputnik V, added the Hindustan Times.

The Bangladeshi side is also upset over the Serum Institute of India’s inability to deliver 30 million doses of the Covishield vaccine under a contract signed November 2020.

Bangladesh is one of five countries (the others are Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Pakistan) that are part of the China-led China South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve and the Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre, both formed earlier this month. China is making vaccines easily available to its members.

Vaccine exports from India were halted in April this year amid a devastating second wave of infections. Under the agreement with SII, Bangladesh was to get five million doses each month from January to June 2021.

Bharat biotech is trying to get necessary approval from WHO for commercial production. MEA through its mission abroad facilitated the regulatory authority of various countries with Bharat Biotech. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has taken personal initiative for getting necessary approval for Covaxin.