The Indian government on Friday gave permission to Serum Institute to produce Russian Covid-19 jab Sputnik V in the country, a development that could also help end vaccine shortage in neighbouring Bangladesh.
The permission from India's drugs controller came two days after the country's leading vaccine maker sought its nod to manufacture the Russian Covid jab here.
"We have got preliminary approval for Sputnik V. But actual manufacturing will take several months. In the meantime, our focus remains Covishield," a spokesperson for Serum Institute told the local media.
Serum's Covishield is being widely used in both India and Bangladesh's mega inoculation drives. Bangladesh has inked a deal with Serum to buy 30 million doses of Covishield, but a recent surge in Covid cases in India has now made the delivery of the remaining doses uncertain.
"However, if Serum manages to plug the gap in vaccine shortage in India, it will also be able to resume supply of the Covid jabs to Bangladesh. In that case, there will be no impediment from any official channel," government sources told UNB.
On Thursday, Serum said that it sought permission from India's drugs controller to produce Sputnik V in this country as well as indemnity against legal proceedings linked to the use of its vaccines here.
"SII put up an application to the Drugs Controller General of India on Wednesday, seeking permission to manufacture Sputnik V in India," a company official had said.
Another company official had told the media that all vaccine companies in India should get indemnity protection against liabilities "if foreign companies are granted the same".
Serum's demand came in wake of media reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government could grant legal protection to foreign Covid vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna.
In a recent interview with a British daily, Serum's chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla had said that the company would increase the vaccine production capacity from the existing 2.5 billion to 3 billion doses a year within six months.
India is currently witnessing a ferocious second wave of Covid-19. At the same time, an acute shortage of Covid vaccines has seriously hampered the country's mass inoculation drive.
Prime Minister Modi rolled out the world's largest Covid vaccination drive in India on January 16. Covishield and local company Bharat Biotech's Covaxin are currently being given to citizens.