With Covaxin approval, more Indian tourists could enter Israel

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is an inactivated virus vaccine, similar to the vaccines produced in the past to defeat polio or hepatitis A. 

Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan holds a dose of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine called COVAXIN, during a vaccination campaign at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital in New Delhi, India, January 16, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI)
Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan holds a dose of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine called COVAXIN, during a vaccination campaign at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital in New Delhi, India, January 16, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI)

More travelers from India should be able to enter Israel soon after the World Health Organization approved the country’s Covaxin coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccine received emergency use authorization for individuals over 18 from the WHO on Wednesday. It has not yet been approved for pregnant women.

Some 10% of vaccinated people in India have taken this vaccine, according to the country’s ambassador to Israel, Sanjeev Singla.

“I saw the regulations put out by Israel and it seems that Israel will approve travelers who have been vaccinated with vaccines approved by the WHO,” Singla said. “We are in touch with the Israeli authorities and requested that they consider this.”

He said that since the vaccine was only approved this week, he assumed it would take a few more days.

A municipal worker cleans the street in front of a bilboard displaying Indian and Israeli flags for PM Netanyahu's visit, Ahmedabad, India, January 2018 (credit: REUTERS/AMIT DAVE)A municipal worker cleans the street in front of a bilboard displaying Indian and Israeli flags for PM Netanyahu's visit, Ahmedabad, India, January 2018 (credit: REUTERS/AMIT DAVE)

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is an inactivated virus vaccine, similar to the vaccines produced in the past to defeat polio or hepatitis A.

India is also producing a novel DNA vaccine called ZyCoV-D, though this shot has not yet been approved by the WHO.

“India is the pharmacy to the world,” Singla said, adding that the country is the largest producer of vaccines in the world. “In times like these, it is important for us to have indigenous capacity to design and manufacture vaccines, and this is what we have been doing.”

Covaxin was produced via a public-private partnership.

In addition to Covaxin and ZyCoV-D, India is manufacturing the British AstraZeneca COVID vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V, the latter which is also not approved by the WHO.

Singla added that, through a consortium with the United States, Japan and Australia, as part of QUAD, India will produce 1 billion doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for supply to Southeast Asia starting by the end of this year or the beginning of 2022. The doses are supposed to be completed within the year.

So far, about 77% of eligible Indians have been inoculated, meaning some 1.08 billion coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered. Singla said now that the WHO approved Covaxin, a process that took several months, he assumes the country will expedite production and other countries will expedite their own regulatory approvals of the shot so that more people can get vaccinated.

“The WHO has stated that this vaccine is highly suitable for low- and middle-income countries because it does not require storage at very low temperatures, something necessary for Pfizer and Moderna,” Singla said, noting that India plans to resume vaccine exports this month and ship large quantities of Covaxin to Africa.

So far, the country has exported around 66 million doses to lower income countries.

ZyCoV-D is also able to be stored at room temperature, he said. But it is also different from other vaccines because it is delivered intradermally, meaning it is injected without a needle via a high-pressure stream of liquid containing the DNA.

“This is where the real potential is,” the ambassador said.