India will benefit from the initial stockpile of about 40-50 million 'Covishield' vaccines developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII) once the company gets the regulatory approval to roll out the vaccine for the masses. After getting the green signal from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), SII will require the World Health Organisation's (WHO) pre-qualification to export the vaccine to other countries that may take at least a month. This may benefit India as it'll get the first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that has been developed at SII's Pune plant.
The world's largest vaccine maker by volume, SII has already manufactured 50 million doses of Covishield vaccine on at-risk funding. Overall, the vaccine giants aim to develop 3.2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines at its facilities in India. SII chief executive Adar Poonawalla has said the vaccine candidate could get approval by next week and it may be rolled out for the masses in January. The company is ramping up capacity every week, he said.
He said all the requisite data has been submitted to the drug regulatory authorities in both India and the UK. He hoped the approval could come around the same time in both the countries.
Interim efficacy data showed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine had an efficacy rate of 70 per cent after two full doses. However, one of the regimens with a half dose and a full dose showed 90 per cent efficacy against the virus. This still is shy of vaccine efficacies claimed by other forerunners - Pfizer's BNT162b2 boasts of an efficacy of 95 per cent, whereas Moderna mRNA-1273 id 94.5 percent effective.
Poonawalla has said Covishield also shows the efficacy level of 95 per cent provided the two shots are taken after a gap of 2-3 months. He said AstraZeneca will soon release data on this. "You'll be hearing some good news from the UK very soon... It would be a 90-95% effective vaccine if you just keep a two-to-three months' gap between dose 1 and dose 2. They will make that public with documentation," Poonawalla said at a presser on Monday.
Covishield is one of the three coronavirus vaccines under consideration for emergency use authorisation in India after Pfizer's BNT162b2 and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. India may be waiting for the UK to approve Covishield first, say experts. The approval could come soon as rising demand for COVID-19 vaccines has resulted in the nation looking for more suppliers.
Moreover, Poonawalla has said apart from tying-up with five COVID-19 vaccine candidates for production, the vaccine maker is also researching two vaccine candidates on its own.
India plans to start the world's biggest mass inoculation drive in January. The country has plans to vaccinate 30 crore people by July in the first phase, say industry observers. The government claims it has assessed the present requirement of vaccines and is working towards augmenting capacities.