Coronavirus has infected more than 1.5 crore people across the globe since outbreak. No vaccine has been developed yet, to protect against the deadly novel virus. The scientists and researchers are scrambling to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. At present, three vaccine candidates are at the final stage of their trials. Among them, Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine has shown a positive result in its initial trial. According to a report published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, the COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55.
Officially known as AZD1222, this COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc. The large-scale phase III human trials of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine has already started in Brazil.
AstraZeneca has joined Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers by number of doses produced and sold, to produce the potential vaccine. Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India, said they will launch the vaccine under the brand name of Covishield if the trials are successful. The vaccine candidate is safe and prompts protective immune response, according to a report in The Lancet.
Serum Institute will produce 3 to 4 million doses of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine this year, Poonawalla said. “… we are hoping to get approvals in about two weeks. After that, we will begin phase 3 human trials here in India,” Poonawalla told.
“By the end of this year, we should be able to produce 3 to 4 million doses come end of December. That’s the target and I hope we can do that,” he added.
Serum Institute will manufacture up to 70 million doses of the vaccine per month up to October and plans to take it up to 100 million per month by December.
There will be 4,000-5,000 participants in the phase III trial of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in India. The trial will take two months after the patients get injected and the vaccine gets a final nod by November.
Asked about the pricing of Oxfords’s COVID-19 vaccine in India, Poonawalla said, “It is too early to comment on the vaccine’s price. However, we will keep it under ₹1,000 per dose.”
He further added it is extremely likely that the COVID-19 vaccine would require two or more doses, like in the case of antidotes for measles and other diseases.
“I don’t think any citizen of India or of any other country is going to have to pay for it because it is going to be bought by the government and distributed free,” Poonawalla said.
Poonawalla said they expect the vaccine to reach the people of India in large numbers by the first quarter of 2021.
On production of the Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine, he added, “Keeping in mind the pandemic situation, we have two dedicated facilities to produce millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, while withholding vast production of other products.”
The company has already manufactured around 2-3 million doses of the vaccine for getting the process correct and also stabilising its machinery.”If you look at the process right now, the risk of the opex (operating expenditure) which we are putting in is more than $200 million. If this vaccine fails, we will be down (by) $200 million,” he said.