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Brazil, UAE likely to get Bharat Biotech vaccine next week for war on Covid-19

Vaccines made by Bharat Biotech

Hyderbad-based Bharat Biotech said on Tuesday it was likely to export its Covid-19 vaccine to Brazil and the United Arab Emirates this week which will make it the second vaccine after the Pune-made Covishield to make its way to foreign shores in the war against the pandemic.

Bharat Biotech 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 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.

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.

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.

The two shots have been used in what India's immunisation programme to cover 300 million people by August, starting with healthcare and other workers to reach the elderly and those with existing conditions by March.

Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, had supplied 11 million doses for the inoculation drive, which has covered 6.3 million front-line workers since it began on Jan. 16.

“The second order is already in place, it’s for 10 million doses which is part of the 100 million doses the company has agreed to sell to the government for Rs 200 (less than $3) each.

The 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.