India working on Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine

File photo. An Indian devotee receives a coronavirus vaccine at Babughat transit camp ahead of Ganga Sagar annual fair in Kolkata, Eastern India, 11 January 2022. Bengal government announced a new partial lockdown and night curfew for 15 days to combat new Omicron variant of coronavirus that is spreading rapidly in India. Ganga Sagar Fair is an annual gathering of Hindu pilgrims during Makar Sankranti on Sagar Island, 130 km south of Kolkata, to take a dip in the sacred waters of the Ganges River before it reaches the Bay of Bengal. [EPA-EFE/PIYAL ADHIKARY]

India’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals is working on an Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine candidate that could be ready in a month or two, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The source, who did not want to be named as the information was private, said the product might need a small trial in India before it could be rolled out as a booster or standalone vaccine.

A representative for Gennova, a unit of drugmaker Emcure Pharmaceuticals that does business in some 70 countries, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pfizer Inc said last week a redesigned COVID-19 vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron coronavirus variant could be ready to launch by March.

The source said Gennova on Friday separately submitted to India’s drug regulator phase 2 trial data for its original mRNA vaccine candidate. The government said last year that product was found to be “safe, tolerable, and immunogenic” in the participants of an initial study.

If given emergency-use approval, this would be the country’s first mRNA COVID-19 vaccine like the ones developed by Pfizer and Moderna.

India’s COVID-19 infections rose by 258,089 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Monday (17 January), taking the tally to 37.38 million.

Deaths rose by 385 for a toll of 486,451, the ministry added.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindu worshippers gathered on the banks of India’s Ganges river on Friday for a holy bathe despite a 30-fold rise in coronavirus cases in the past month.

Hindus believe a bathe in the holy river on the 14 January Makarsankranti festival washes away sins.

A large number of devotees were taking a dip in the sacred river where it flows through the eastern state of West Bengal, which is reporting the most number of cases in the country after Maharashtra state in the west.

Last year, a big religious gathering in northern India contributed to a record rise in coronavirus cases.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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