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WHO approves India’s homegrown vaccine Covaxin for emergency use

WHO clears India's homegrown Covaxin for emergency use listing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday approved Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, for emergency use which will now make it easier for Indians to travel abroad as many countries recognise only WHO cleared vaccines.

"The Technical Advisory Group has determined that the Covaxin vaccine meets WHO standards for protection against COVID-19, that the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs risks and the vaccine can be used," WHO said in a tweet.

Covaxin was also reviewed by WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, which recommended its use in two doses, with an interval of four weeks, in all age groups 18 and above.

The approval will also pave the way for export of the vaccine to poor countries as it is affordable and does not require deep-freeze infrastructure for storage like the US-made Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. 

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The WHO's advisory group was expected to make a decision on the shot last week, but asked for additional clarifications from Bharat Biotech before conducting a final risk-benefit assessment for the vaccine's global use.

Covaxin is the seventh vaccine that has been approved by the WHO after two mRNA shots by Pfizer and Moderna, adenovirus vector vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson and China's inactivated vaccines from Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also mentioned the need to expeditiously clear the India-made vaccine for emergency use, in his speech at the G20 summit in Rome, as the delay was posing a hindrance. 

The approval comes as a major relief as it will now be accepted as a valid vaccine for millions of Indians who have received it and want to travel abroad. Earlier they had to go through cumbersome quarantine procedures despite being fully vaccinated.

Oman and Australia, however, were among the countries that had already started recognising Covaxin as a valid vaccine for travellers.