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Why India could quickly catch up on Covid vaccination


India could have access to at least 40 million doses of the ready-to-ship Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) facility in Pune, which could help the country catch up with other nations that have started. to vaccinate its citizens.

The vaccine, which was recommended for emergency use in India on Friday, is currently the only candidate that will be available in massive volumes for the country, but its stocks may be among the largest, SII executives said in recent days. This, along with the vaccine’s compatibility with India’s cold chain network, are factors that could aid rapid implementation.

With the manufacturing and storage license, the Serum Institute of India has already been able to store 75 million doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine and by the first week of January, we will have 100 million doses. No one in the world has that much stock and we can start supplying as soon as we get approval, ”Umesh Shaligram, SII’s Director of Research and Development, said in a webinar Thursday.

Earlier in the week, SII Executive Director Adar Poonawalla told reporters that 50% of the doses produced will be split between India and the Covax Facility, a group led by WHO to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. (LMIC).

“… We have always said that we will continue to give 50% of everything we do to India and Covax at the same time. So if we produce 60-70 million doses every month, there will be a lot of vaccines for India and the Covax countries, including some of our neighbors like Bangladesh, etc., because everyone wants the vaccine, and we are trying. to give all that we can and in an equitable way to the nations, including India, “he said.

Why India could quickly catch up on Covid vaccination

Initially, the company may turn over most of its production to India because to export to these countries, it would need prequalification from the WHO, Poonawalla said on Monday.

“… That may take a month or so after obtaining the license in India. That way, India will take precedence, and because India is such a big country, we may end up giving most of those 50 million doses to India first. Every month we produce between 40 and 50 million doses, which will amount to about 100 million doses each month in March, as by then we are going to start up a third facility that is being prepared. Eventually everyone will get it; of course, some countries will have to wait a little longer, ”he said.

According to Our World in Data, nearly 10 million vaccinations have already taken place worldwide, with China, the US, the UK, and Israel having administered the most doses. Among these, Israel has the highest proportion of its population that has received the vaccine at 11%.

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In terms of volume, China has administered the highest figures at 4.5 million, but none of its domestically manufactured vaccines have yet been licensed after adequate safety and efficacy trials.

Globally, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine ticks two crucial boxes: it has received approvals after due scientific process, and has won the most agreements for production and distribution. According to scientific analysis company Airfinity, 2.6 billion doses of the vaccine are expected to be produced in 2021. In terms of committed supplies, Oxford and AstraZeneca have received orders for 3.7 billion doses.

In terms of supply volumes, the next larger volumes have been projected for the candidate by Novavax, which is also being manufactured by SII. Novavax is manufacturing a vaccine using a tried and tested recombinant protein platform and has shown encouraging results, it is likely that it will take a few more months before late stage trials show efficacy results, the key marker for evaluating an inoculation.

Novavax’s deal with SII could secure India a greater supply advantage later this year, as Poonawalla previously indicated that 50% of the company’s entire production will be reserved for domestic supplies.

The other big supplies from India could come from Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, which began its phase 3 trials in mid-November and is claimed to have an annual production capacity of 300 million doses. A second vaccine made in India is that of Gujarat-based Zydus Cadila, which has yet to move to Phase 3 III trials.

The third highest global production projected for 2021 is for Pfizer-BioNTech with 1.3 billion, according to Airfinity evaluations, but the dose is considered unfeasible for the poorest countries due to its high price and its ultra-cold storage requirements that will need special networks to be erected. The vaccine is expected to cost $ 20 per dose.

This has caused the Oxford-AstraZeneca, which will cost between $ 3-4 per dose, to obtain the “vaccine for the world” label from various experts. The companies committed to equitable distribution when they reached a $ 750 million agreement in June with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, a vaccine alliance to support the manufacturing, procurement and distribution of 300 million doses.

Shortly after, it reached a licensing agreement with the SII to supply 1 billion doses to low- and middle-income countries, with a commitment to provide 400 million by the end of 2020.

The reported efficacy figures from the Oxford-AstraZeneca trial fall below those reported for the mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, but are still well above the 50% threshold identified by regulators around the world as the ribbon for a vaccine. considered effective.

Dr Shahid Jameel, director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University and former CEO of the Wellcome Trust / DBT India Alliance, said the SEC’s recommendations are “probably the best news in a while.” “The good thing is that we are manufacturing it and we don’t need to go begging for doses. However, people will still have to take precautions because vaccines have been shown to protect against disease and not infection. What this means is that a vaccinated person can continue to transmit the infection to a susceptible population, ”he said.

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