India applies to test Oxford vaccine after initial results shows promise

Mass production of the vaccine against the coronavirus being developed at the Oxford University will happen by December this year.

Trial vaccine against Covid-19
Trial vaccine against Covid-19 REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

After the Oxford vaccine candidate triggered a dual immune response in humans against the Corona virus, Serum Institute of India (SII) chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said that the company will apply for permission for phase 3 trials for the Oxford vaccine in India next week and will begin the study soon. 

Hope to launch soon

Researchers said the candidate, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, had during Phase I and II human clinical trials, induced neutralizing antibodies that specifically rendered the virus non-infectious in “all participants” who had been administered a second dose.

“We are confident on going on to the Phase 3 trials in India in August and we forecast that it will take probably two to two-and-half months to complete,” Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of SII told RFI.

“If the trials and results go as planned, we would be able to produce a few million doses of the vaccine by November-December, and around 300-400 million doses by the first quarter of 2021 for mass usage.”

The candidate is also currently undergoing large Phase III human trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil.

SII, the world’s largest maker of vaccines by volume, has partnered with biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to manufacture the experimental Covid-19 vaccine candidate developed by Oxford University.

The potential vaccine named ‘Covishield’ would be ready by December this year.

Officials in India’s health ministry said that the clearance process will be expedited and the firm will be provided with every kind of assistance.

Typically, vaccines go through various stages of research, which involve testing on animals and at least three phases of clinical trials.

“All this can take several years, sometimes up to a decade. But this is an extraordinary situation affecting the world. A vaccine is the only thing to return normalcy to the world, and this calls for development projects to be accelerated,” said Poonawalla.

Trials show promise

Studies of the vaccine candidate have so far shown that there were no serious adverse events and neutralizing antibodies, which specifically kill the virus, increased in a two-dose regimen. The vaccine candidate also showed a marked increase in the response generated by cellular immunity.

The Oxford candidate, along with the Chinese and American biotech, Moderna candidates, represent rising hope that scientists are getting closer to a vaccine that would defeat the coronavirus.

SII hopes to make the vaccine available at the lowest price possible so that even the poor can afford it. Besides India, it also wants to make it available to places like Africa.

Officials in the institute believed that the vaccines would  mostly be bought by governments and then distributed free through their respective immunization programmes.

COVID-19 has so far infected over 15 million people and killed more than 615,000 around the world.


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