Vials with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19)/AFP.

India has authorised the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, a leading local drugmaker said Tuesday, in a boost for the nation’s inoculation drive as infection rates soar to record highs.

Russia’s Sputnik V is the third vaccine to be approved by India after the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Covaxin, which was developed by Indian firm Bharat Biotech.

“We are very pleased to obtain the emergency use authorisation for Sputnik V in India,” said G.V. Prasad, co-chair of pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, in a statement.

“With the rising cases in India, vaccination is the most effective tool in our battle against COVID-19.”

The South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people has been battling a huge surge in virus cases in recent weeks that has prompted night curfews and a clampdown on movement and activities.

India on Monday reported more than 161,000 new cases — the seventh-consecutive day that more than 100,000 infections have been recorded.

Sputnik V, backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), already has production agreements in India to produce 852 million doses.

RDIF chief executive Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement that the approval was a “major milestone” after “extensive cooperation” on clinical trials of the shot in India.

India, home to the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, kicked off its inoculation drive in mid-January and has administered more than 10.8 million shots so far.

But the government’s ambitious goal of vaccinating 300 million people by the end of July has been hit by reports of stock shortages in some states and vaccine hesitancy.

The government has also slowed its export of jabs due to the rise in cases.

– AFP

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