- It is good to hit 90 per cent efficacy: Oxford Professor Adrian Hil
- Competing against virus not Pfizer, Moderna vaccines: Oxford Professor
- Over 10 billion doses will be required to vaccinate enough people: Mr. Hill
New Delhi: The COVID-19 vaccine candidates being developed across the globe are showing promising results, but as of now, the one developed by Oxford University and Swedish-British pharma major AstraZeneca may have come as good news for India. This is because Oxford-AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 which claims to be 90 per cent effective is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus from chimpanzees and does not need to be stored at very cold temperatures. It can be stored in a fridge unlike the vaccine candidates developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna which must be stored/transported at negative 20-80 degrees Celsius that creates an infrastructural barrier. Moreover, India has already tied up with Oxford University and the vaccine is being produced by Pune based Serum Institute of India as ‘Covishield’ while there are no such tie-ups with other two vaccine manufacturers yet.
To know more about the development and distribution plan of the Oxford vaccine, NDTV spoke with Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford which focuses on designing and developing vaccines for infectious diseases. Professor Hill, who is overseeing the Oxford vaccine trials said,
These are interim results but I have to say, they are rather encouraging. It is good to hit 90 per cent efficacy, but we were pleasantly surprised by the results that we measured on asymptomatic patients who are people who got the infection and are well. Nobody had looked at that before. We saw that we got some protection in such cases as well, in the trial. This means that the vaccine might reduce transmission from infected people who don’t even know that they are infected. That could be key contribution to ending this pandemic, if we can stop people from infecting others.
In the trial run on more than 20,000 people across the world, there were two different dosage regimes followed by the researchers. First, where the trial volunteers were given two doses of the vaccine a month apart that had over 60 per cent efficacy. Second, where the trial volunteers were given only half a dose of the vaccine first and then a normal dose which had 90 per cent efficacy. For future trials, the researchers will be following the second regime, said Dr. Hill. He added,
It was something of a pleasant surprise. This is because it not only gets us a higher efficacy, it also means that in these very difficult two or three months coming up, where there won’t be enough vaccines for everybody who wants it, we can distribute twice as many doses because we are giving half dose at least for the first immunisation. So that’s a win in two ways. It is not only a better outcome for the vaccinated individual but also there will be more vaccines to go around.
We have three pretty good vaccines, all in the 90 per cent range for efficacy. But we are not competing against each other; we are competing against the virus which has been winning for too long. These three vaccines give us a really good shot at fighting back.
He further said that what will become crucial from now on is manufacturing the vaccine as the aim is to supply three billion doses during 2021. He said,
There are a lot of people who already want a vaccine, billions who may need it. This has never been done before. We have never administered more than half a billion doses in a year for any disease globally.
He signed off saying that the focus would be now to see that they are able to build over three billion doses with AstraZeneca and a billion more from other companies because to vaccinate the whole world, over 10 billion doses will be required which is huge.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.