Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) chief Adar Poonawalla has said that the world's largest vaccine manufacturer has increased its production of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine named COVISHIELD, with the aim of having a 100 million doses of the shot ready by December, a Bloomberg report said. A countrywide vaccination drive could reportedly begin in the same month.
COVISHIELD has been developed at the SII Pune laboratory with a master seed from Astra Zeneca.
If final stage data from the trials of the Oxford vaccine show promising results, then Serum Institute, which has partnered with AstraZeneca to produce at least one billion doses, could receive emergency authorisation for the shot from New Delhi, Poonawalla said.
In an interview to Bloomberg on Thursday, Poonawalla said that early approval next year will allow for more vaccine production and sharing on a 50:50 basis with South Asian nations as well as the WHO-backed body purchasing vaccines for poor nations.
Earlier, the Serum Institute CEO had told NDTV in an interview that the vaccine could be launched in India in January 2021.
“If we don’t go for an emergency license, our trials should be over by December and then we can maybe we can launch in India in January subject to the UK trial also being completed which it’s on the verge on being completed,” he had said in an October interview.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has also said that he is preparing for the possibility of large-scale vaccinations in December. According to Bloomberg, once the UK grants its own emergency licence, SII will submit that same data to Indian counterparts.
40 Million Doses Already Manufactured
The SII has already manufactured 40 million doses of the vaccine, under the at-risk manufacturing and stockpiling licence from the Drugs Controller General of India, IANS reported. It will be a two-dose vaccine, with a gap of 28 days between the two doses.
Meanwhile, SII and ICMR on Thursday announced the completion of enrollment for Phase-III clinical trials for COVISHIELD in India. The enrollment of all 1,600 participants was completed on 31 October 2020.
The institute has administered 1,600 volunteers with doses of the vaccine and all of them will be now remain under observation.
However, Poonawalla has said that it will take until 2024 to vaccinate the entire world and two years to see a real reduction in infections.
He also said that AstraZeneca has an advantage over Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, which recently revealed that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective in preventing the infection. The vaccine reportedly needs to be stored at about minus 75 degrees Celsius, making it a tough requirement for many countries to achieve.
(With inputs from IANS and Bloomberg.)