India OKs AstraZeneca and locally made COVID-19 vaccines

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Volunteers wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus clear the debris left over by tourists at Maidan, the city's largest open space in Kolkata, India, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the worlds second most populous country. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

NEW DELHI – India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second-most populous country.

The country's drugs regulator gave emergency authorization for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech.

Drugs Controller General Dr. Venugopal G. Somani said that both vaccines would be administered in two dosages. He said the decision to approve the vaccines was made after “careful examination” by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, India's pharmaceutical regulator.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the 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.

AstraZeneca has contracted Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, to make 1 billion doses of its vaccine for developing nations, including India. On Wednesday, Britain became the first country to approve the shot.

India, however, will not allow the export of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine for several months, Adar Poonawalla, Serum Institute’s CEO, said Sunday. The ban on exports means that poorer nations will probably have to wait a few months before receiving their first shots.

The move was made to ensure that vulnerable populations in India are protected and to prevent hoarding, Poonawalla said in an interview with The Associated Press.