India plans immediate production of Oxford vaccine to combat Covid-19
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The Serum Institute of India is aiming to have 100 million doses ready by December for an inoculation drive and the country will be given first priority for delivery of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
With British–Swedish multinational pharmaceutical, AstraZeneca reporting that its Covid-19 vaccine is 70% effective without any serious side effects, the announcement came like a shot in the arm for most Indians.
In the western city of Pune, Cyrus Poonawalla, founder of the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is testing and manufacturing the candidate under license, said the vaccine would be available in India “very soon”. The manufacturer has already produced 40 million doses of the vaccine so far.
India's Serum Institute will make 100 million shots of the "Oxford" vaccine by next month. https://t.co/8PoYWUgMD8— Patrick French (@PatrickFrench) November 24, 2020
“A vaccine against the coronavirus disease will be available very soon in our country. We are going to ask for special emergency marketing authorization in 45 days from today,” said the founder, Cyrus Poonawalla.
His son, Adar, the CEO of the company and spearheading the vaccine manufacture said he was delighted and assured that the low cost vaccine would soon be widely available.
“"It will be another two to three months for the vaccine to be available in India. By January we will have 100 million doses, minimum. The target set by the government is 300 to 400 million doses by July,” said Adar.
A new hope
Emergency authorisation for the vaccine by the Indian regulator will be the first step in ensuring its administration based on a priority list, starting with frontline healthcare workers.
SII scientists are, in fact, hopeful of being able to roll out the vaccine before the year is out.
“We hope the government will give the go-ahead for vaccinating persons at highest risk – doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers at hospitals. In anticipation of receiving regulatory clearance, 100 million doses will be ready through special license in one and a half months,” said Adar.
The interim analysis of the vaccine, which included 131 Covid-19 patients, indicates that one dosing regimen showed a 90% efficacy when the vaccine was given as a half dose followed by a full dose at least one month apart; another regimen showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart.
“The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70%. All results were statistically significant. More data will continue to accumulate and additional analysis will be conducted, refining the efficacy reading and establishing the duration of protection,” AstraZeneca said in a release.
India will be given first priority for the delivery of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine after its British developers claimed success following mass testing, the SII said https://t.co/ObnRNPCwyb— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) November 24, 2020
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a crucial meeting with chief ministers of the states worst affected by the coronavirus on vaccine administration where it was decided that 10 million frontline healthcare workers have been identified to receive the first dose of whichever vaccine is available against the Covid-19 infection early next year.
The Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker by volume, has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi Alliance to produce more than a billion doses of the vaccine for global supply.
Officials in the health ministry pointed out that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is markedly cheaper and is estimated to cost at about $2.50 a dose.
The Indian government is in talks with developers and manufacturers of all potential Covid-19 vaccine candidates for procurement of their product.
Currently, five vaccine candidates are in advanced stages of development in India and one is in the early stages.
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