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Argentina becomes third Latin American country to get India-made Covid vaccines

Argentina is set to receive 580,000 doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from India’s Serum Institute

Argentina is set to receive 580,000 doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from India’s Serum Institute on Wednesday, a government official said. 

Argentina, which has seen more than 50,000 deaths in the pandemic, becomes the third Latin American country after Brazil and Mexico to get the India-made vaccines which will also be sent to Canada soon.

Mexico received a consignment of 870,000 doses of the Pune-made AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine from India on Sunday as it struggles with its inoculation drive against the deadly coronavirus amid an acute shortage of doses. The shipment amounts to about 42% of the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine the country plans to import from India.

India-made vaccines in demand

While Brazil has already got shipments of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, it has also signed an agreement for a second India-made vaccine from Bharat Biotech.

The Hyderabad-based company has already supplied 5.5 million doses of its vaccine Covaxin, developed with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research, to the inoculation campaign in India. The Indian government will be buying another 4.5 million doses for the ongoing domestic vaccination programme, the Bharat Biotech spokesperson said.

There is a growing demand for Indian vaccines amid the huge shortage that has developed for the shots worldwide. Besides, Indian vaccines are much cheaper and easier to handle as they can be stored at ordinary refrigeration temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius unlike the western-made vacccines like Pfizer and Moderna which have to be kept at -80 degrees Celsius and require expensive cold-chain infrastructure.

Bharat Biotech has applied to conduct a Phase III trial for Covaxin in Brazil, a country which plans to import 8 million doses of it in February and another 12 million in March. Besides, Bharat Biotech has sought emergency use authorisation in the Philippines.

India has in a sense emerged as the "pharmacy of the world"  as 15 countries have already received India-made vaccines, including neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka while another 25 nations are in the queue for the shots.

The Bharat Biotech vaccine has been cleared for emergency use in the country and the company expects results from an ongoing trial involving 25,800 participants in India to be completed by March. A study on 26 participants has also found the vaccine to be effective against the UK strain of the coronavirus.

The Indian regulator is also expected to approve Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine which is being made by Dr Reddy's Labs in India for use in the coming weeks. India pharma major Cadila Healthcare’s is also likely to get approval for its ZyCov-D vaccines soon.