India is accelerating its review of coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca for emergency use, a senior government official said on Monday, as the world’s second-most affected country struggles to contain the outbreak. The Indian government is pinning its hopes for mass supply of the vaccine on Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer by volume, which on Monday lodged the first formal application for emergency use approval for AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer Inc had already applied for emergency use approval for its vaccine in India over the weekend, the official said, declining to be identified.
“We are in the process of reviewing. It is an accelerated reviewing process, which is there for Serum too,” the government official said. “It is the need of the hour. We have to review at the earliest.” The world’s second-most populous country with over 1.3 billion people has 9.68 million infections, while more than 140,000 people have died of COVID-19. Lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the virus have plunged the economy into one of its worst downturns in decades. AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna Inc are among the drugmakers seeking advanced approvals for their vaccines, which are increasingly being seen by governments as the only way to stop a pandemic that will soon complete a year since it was first reported in China.