New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: With over 150 countries leaving no stone unturned in their bid to develop a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus, Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, has partnered with AstraZeneca and Oxford University to manufacture their experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

SII’s chief executive officer, Adar Poonawalla said that the vaccine maker will be manufacturing 700 to 800 million doses of the vaccine once it gets ready for public use. He also said that the company will launch the COVID-19 vaccine under the brand name of Covishield if the trials are successful both in the United Kingdom and in India.  

Doses of the potential vaccine:

Adar Poonawalla, in an interview with CNN-News18, said that the Serum Institute of India will be manufacturing 700-800 million doses annually. Given the 5 months left in this year, SII will be making around 300 million doses of the vaccine till December.

“Our capacity right now till we build a new facility is going to be about 700 to 800 million dozes annually. So if we look at the four months that we got here we could make around 300 millions by December”, Poonawalla said as quoted by News18.  

Poonawalla also said that the vaccine will be introduced by December or first quarter of 2021 as it will take nearly two months more to complete the phase three trials of the vaccine before it goes into actual trials in the hospital into patients.

On the number of doses given to the patients, Poonawalla said that it is very unlikely that COVID-19 vaccine would require two or more doses on the patients to get them vaccinated.   

“So what we found in this study was that 90% which is very high and good of the people vaccinated with one shot was good enough. It is only the balance 10 percent that needed the second shot which is a very good statistic if we look at the overall picture”, he said.

Price of the COVID-19 vaccine:

Adar Poonawalla said that the Serum Institute is trying to reach maximum number of people in the country by the first quarter of 2021. He said that we are trying to make it very affordable and planning to price it around Rs 1,000 or less.

“We are going to give it at a very affordable price… We are planning to put it at about Rs 1000 or less than that… 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,” he said.

Trials of the COVID-19 vaccine:

Poonawalla said that the company is going to start the phase 3 trials of the vaccine candidate by the end of August on nearly up to 5,000 volunteers after getting nods from the DGCI for phase three trials.   

“The vaccine under development will be injected into 4,000-5,000 volunteers in Pune and Mumbai, which have high rates of coronavirus infections, as part of the crucial phase three of the trial which will determine if the antidote can be introduced in the market or not,” he said.

Investment by Serum Institute of India to manufacture the vaccine:

Poonawalla said that the company is putting USD 200 million at risk by by manufacturing nearly 300 million doses. And if any issue with regulatory approvals come up, the company will lose the money. However, he said that SII decided to rise to the occasion and take this risk.

“We are making this application within the next 48 hours to the Drug Controller General of India’s office. They will probably take about 1-2 weeks on what kind of study and trial we will have to do,” Poonawalla said, to News18.

“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, adding the expenses exclude the opportunity cost of using the same facility for some other purpose.

A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and induces a strong immune response within the body, scientists announced on Monday after the first phase of "promising" human trials against the deadly disease that has infected over 1.45 crore people and claimed more than six lakh lives across the world.

Doses of the vaccine were given to 1,077 healthy adults, aged between 18 and 55, in five UK hospitals in April and May as part of the phase one clinical trial, and results were published in the 'Lancet' medical journal.

The results showed they induced strong antibody and T-cell immune responses for up to 56 days after they were given. T-cells are crucial for maintaining protection against the virus for years.

Posted By: Talib Khan