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Here’s Why the Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine is the Best Bet for India

Updated
Here’s Why the Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine is the Best Bet for India

Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has 70.4 percent efficacy, meaning it can prevent 70.4% people from getting COVID-19, according to newly released data.

Earlier data has already indicated that the vaccine is effective in all age groups including elderly.

The interim analysis from its phase 3 vaccine trial came from combining two dose regimes. One was 90% effective, the other 62%.

While this data is disappointing compared to the nearly 95 percent efficacy shown by Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Oxford vaccine is relatively cheap and easy to distribute.

What Does it Mean for India?

For India, this is good news. Serum Institute of India, the Indian manufacturer of the vaccine, dubbed Covishield here, has said that it will be keeping half its vaccines for the country. They are already manufacturing 40-50 million vaccines a month. In India, phase 3 trials for the Oxford vaccine are set to begin after the recruitment was recently completed.

An earlier analysis by CreditSuisse has also indicated that India will depend upon Oxford, Nonovax and Johnson & Johnson for its vaccine needs. This is because their temperature range is 2-8-degree Celsius. Moderna or Pfizer do not feature in the list, the bottleneck being cold storage infrastructure (especially refrigerated vans).

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In a statement, Prof Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, told The Guardian:

“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply."

Another reason this vaccine offers more hope in India is the relatively simpler supply chain requirements, and the 'no-profit' pledge that the company has taken.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said: “Today marks an important milestone in our fight against the pandemic."

“Furthermore, the vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available, supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval.”

What Did the Data Show?

The data examined more than 20,000 volunteers in the Uk and Brazil.

30 cases were reported in those who had two doses of the vaccine and 101 in those who received a placebo.

Those volunteers who were given two high doses received 62% protection, and those who received one low followed by one high dose, received nearly 90 percent protection.

There were also lower levels of asymptomatic infection in the low followed by high dose group, said Prof Pollard.

When Will We Get it in India?

Currently, Phase 3 trials of the vaccine are on across India in collaboration with Serum Institute and ICMR. Recently, the investigators finished recruiting for Phase 3 of the Covishield human trials. 1600 participants have been enrolled. Once the trial is over, and the data examined and studied, a green signal can be given for emergency use. Though some reports indicate SII will apply for emergency use as soon as next month.

According to The Hindu, an SII official says nearly 100 million Covishield vials will be in stock by January 2021. Covishield is likely to be available for the rest of the public by March-April 2021, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII said in a summit recently.

It is likely to be priced at Rs 500-600 for private use. The Government is likely to get it from Rs 250-300.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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