India has given emergency approval to the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine as well as a jab developed in the country to stem the Covid-19 pandemic, paving the way for a huge inoculation program in the world’s second most populous country.
The country’s initial immunisation plan aims to vaccinate 300 million of the country's 1.35 billion people - health care workers, front-line staff including police and those considered vulnerable due to their age or other diseases - by August 2021.
India is the second-worst hit country by Covid after the US, with over 10.3 million confirmed cases and 149,435 deaths, though its rate of infection has come down significantly from a mid-September peak.
Both vaccines will be administered in two dosages.
The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company, has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses for developing nations, including India.
On Friday, the UK became the first country in the world to approve the vaccine, with the first jabs set to begin on Monday.
The other vaccine known as COVAXIN is developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with government agencies and is based on an inactivated form of the coronavirus.
The company has completed only two of three trial phases and the third, which tests for efficacy, began testing in mid-November.
Early clinical studies showed that the vaccine does not have any serious side effects and produces antibodies for Covid-19.
The second shot is to be given 28 days after the first, and an immune response prompted two weeks later.
The Health Ministry said in a statement that permission was granted for Bharat Biotech’s shot for restricted use in the "public interest as an abundant precaution in clinical trial mode, especially in the context of infection by mutant strains".
However, the approval has been criticised by scientists as well as Public Health Watchdog, All India Drug Action Network, who have raised concerns about the transparency over submitting data to regulators.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine approval a "decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight."
"It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India!" Modi tweeted.
An application for a vaccine made by Pfizer is still being reviewed.