India Approaches Pfizer for 'Promising' Virus Vaccine But Shots May Not be Available Across Country

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In a significant announcement, Pfizer on Monday announced that its vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis​.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, a biotechnology company are developing an mRNA-based vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, against SARS-CoV-2 which they say has demonstrated evidence of efficacy against Covid-19 in participants without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, based on the first interim efficacy analysis.

In India, top sources within the National Expert Group that is deliberating on the vaccine strategy for the country say that India has already approached the representatives of US-based Pfizer's Indian subsidiary. This meeting happened days after the global pharma giant released the early phase one data. In India, the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 deliberates on strategy to ensure Covid-19 vaccines’ availability and its delivery mechanism​.

The members of the national expert group have otherwise been tightlipped about Pfizer. But Dr Randeep Guleria, who is a member of the Expert Group, told News18 in an earlier interview that there is a possibility of India procuring Pfizer's vaccine for cities. News18 asked Dr Guleria about the problems associated with the storage of a vaccine like that being developed by Pfizer given the fact that it needs to be stored at -70 degrees. News18 had also asked Dr Guleria about Moderna's vaccine that needs to be stored at -25 degrees. This was before Pfizer announced that it's vaccine was showing efficacy to up to 90%.

"We will see how we can position these vaccines. We may not be able to give some vaccines, which require -70 or -80 degrees, in smaller towns and rural areas. Maybe we can have these vaccines in bigger towns," said Dr Guleria.

Experts say vaccines like Pfizer will require stringent standards for refrigeration. This could be the one factor that may affect how they are distributed across the country.

However, will the vaccine require bridging studies in India, will India place orders with Pfizer like the US, Canada and Japan is not something the government is revealing at this point in time.

What is reassuring is that unlike any other vaccine being developed against Covid-19, Pfizer's is also being tested on children, that studies show, are affected by the virus and are transmitters as well. Children as young as 12 have been enrolled in their trials.