India is all set to get its first coronavirus vaccine. Covishield — the Oxford University-Astra-Zeneca vaccine candidate will be commercialised in 73 days, a top official at the Serum Institute of India said on Saturday.
The phase III trials of the vaccine are being handled by the Serum Institute of India. The vaccine, developed by Oxford University, is likely to be the first one to move into production in India, sources had indicated to India Today TV earlier.
A Bussiness Today report quoted a Serum Institute of India (SII) top official saying that the government has given the biotechnology company “a ‘special manufacturing priority license’ and fast-tracked the trial protocol processes to get the trials completed in 58 days.”
“By this, the first dosing will take place today [Saturday] in the final phase [Phase III] and the second dosing will happen after 29 days. The final trial report will be out in another 15 days from the second dosing. By that time, we are planning to commercialise Covishield,” the official said.
The phase III trials of the vaccine began on Saturday, August 22, at 20 centres in India, predominantly in Pune and Mumbai in Maharashtra and Ahmedabad in Gujarat. In this phase, the vaccine will be administered to 1,600 people.
The news of Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine entering a late-stage trial has raised hopes of an earlier than expected arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Quoting sources, the Business Today report said that the vaccine will belong to the Serum Institute. It said the company has entered into an “exclusive agreement with Astra Zeneca to buy rights and pay a royalty fee for exclusively selling it in India and 92 other countries”.
The Centre has already indicated to SII that it will directly procure the vaccines and is planning to immunise Indians for free, the report said.
The government has also sought 68 crore doses for 130 crore Indian citizens from the Serum Institute by June next year, it added.
Previously, several reports said that around 800 people would be administered the Oxford University’s vaccine. They said the developers have already signed a deal for producing 10 crore doses of the vaccine.
The ICMR-Bharat Biotech’s ‘Covaxine’ and Zydus Cadila’s ‘ZyCoV-D’ are also in the race. The vaccine candidates being developed by Bharat Biotech, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and Zydus Cadila, are in human clinical trials in phase-I and II simultaneously.
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Saturday expressed hope that if all goes well, India will get a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of this year. Speaking to an India Today TV reporter, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “The world is working towards discovering a vaccine. 26 vaccine candidates around the world are in the clinical trials phase. Apart from this, there are 139 candidates that are being developed on different levels and in pre-clinical trials.”
“The vaccine candidates in India have made a little more progress than them. There are around half a dozen in total. Three of them have reached the first, second and third phases respectively,” the Health Minister said.
Dr Harsh Vardhan added, “As we are analysing their progress, we are fully confident that their trials will be completed within this year itself and their results will come out in front of the whole nation and the world. And I have complete faith that we will be successful too.”
“As soon as an effective vaccine is available for the country, we will start its manufacturing in India and make it available to the public,” he further said.