20 Nov 2020: Oxford vaccine to be available by April 2021 in India
Pune-based Serum Institute of India, which has partnered with Oxford University and British pharma giant AstraZeneca, plans to seek an emergency approval from the government of India next month, for providing the coronavirus vaccine to "corona warriors" and the elderly.
The vaccine, dubbed "Covishield," has shown splendid results.
By April 2021, the general public would get doses, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Thursday.
Effectiveness: The vaccine produced strong response among older adults: Report
Yesterday, The Lancet medical journal published more details about the vaccine, revealing that doses generated a strong response among older adults. This assumes significance as the elderly are more susceptible to catching the contagion, and falling severely ill.
For the study, 560 adults, 240 of whom were aged above 70, were considered.
Separately, the results from late-stage trials are expected in the coming weeks.
Statement: SII is working on a "pandemic-level facility"
For months now, the Oxford vaccine has induced hope among Indians. And Poonawalla is confident his company can step up to meet the demands.
He also said the Indian government will get the vaccine at a much cheaper price, because of the volumes.
Price: General public will get it for Rs. 500-600
The vaccine could cost the government somewhere between Rs. 225 and Rs. 300 "because they will be buying large volumes," explained Poonawalla.
"The general public, as I mentioned, will probably have to pay around Rs. 500-600," he said, underlining that it's cheaper than other vaccines.
This means that the vaccine (as two doses would be needed) would cost nearly Rs. 1,000.
Plan: SII wants emergency use authorization to cater to select groups
On SII's plan, Poonwalla said the company will approach Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for emergency use approval after authorities abroad, like MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and the European EMEA (European Medicines Agency), also give similar permission.
"Again, that will be - just to clarify - a limited use for frontline workers and the elderly," he reiterated.
Fact: All depends on satisfactory results from UK
"If we have a good UK result coming in end of November-early December, we apply for an emergency licensure use. So, you have the vaccine for - again - the vulnerable populations by Jan-Feb and then...March-April for the general public," he added.
Details: Every Indian will be inoculated in two-three years
The CEO of SII also said that every Indian will be inoculated in about two-three years, explaining that not only supply constraints, but budget, logistics, and infrastructure would also dictate the process.
"And then, people should be willing to take the vaccine. So these are the factors that lead up to being able to vaccinate 80-90% of the population," he added.
Safety: Long-term efficacy of vaccine can't be judged now
When asked about efficiency, Poonawalla urged to keep patience. "The efficacy and immunogenicity results from the Indian trials will come out in about a month-and-a-half," he said.
He stressed that the vaccine generated a good T-cell response.
"Time will tell if these vaccines are going to protect you in the long term. Nobody can answer that for any of the vaccines today," he asserted.