- Pune's Serum Institute to manufacture vaccines for COVID-19 by May-end
- It will be ready to use by September when the human trials end
- The vaccine is likely to be a one shot vaccine and may cost around Rs.1000
New Delhi: “Immunisation is one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions that saves millions of lives every year,” says the World Health Organization as they celebrate the World Immunisation Week from April 24-30. The world at the moment is facing the biggest health crisis in view of the COVID-19 outbreak. While there is no vaccine to fight the novel coronavirus yet, as per experts, there are about 100 projects for the development of a vaccine underway and India will play a key role in the same. The world’s largest vaccine producer, Pune-based Serum Institute of India told NDTV that the firm is working with scientists in the UK and the US to manufacture a vaccine for the global pandemic that has infected more than 3 million people and cost 209,661 lives worldwide. When it comes to the firm’s latest partnership with UK’s Oxford University, the COVID-19 vaccine might be arriving sooner than expected.
Adar Poonawalla, the chief of Serum Institute of India, told NDTV that development of vaccines take “many years” to prove their safety and efficacy and partly due to the regulatory approvals as well. He explained,
We have ourselves said that it (vaccine production) will take till 2021 with Codagenix and other US partners. But about a week ago, we were able to tie up with Oxford University which has progressed a lot and entered human beings, he told NDTV.
He further said that the firm is hoping to jumpstart the production of the vaccine by the end of May, so that by the time the trials get over in September, Indians and the world do not have to wait another six months after that for the vaccine to be produced.
When it comes to availability of the vaccine on a mass scale for a country as big as India, Mr. Poonawala said that Serum Institute is one of five or six manufacturers and the only Indian firm, who is partnered with the Oxford University for the development of the vaccine. He added,
I have already sanctioned a Rs. 600-crores state-of-the-art facility to be constructed, but it will take least 2-3 years where we can manufacture half a billion or 3 quarters of a billion doses of this vaccine. But until that’s ready, we need to find different existing facilities where we can produce this vaccine and fortunately we have a facility where can produce 50-100 million doses in the next one year with this particular technology and product. And then we can scale up from there.
Besides Oxford, Mr. Poonawalla’s firm also has a tie-up with US-based firm Codagenix, which, he said, is using a live attenuated virus to develop its vaccine and is conducting animal trials with it.
It is a couple of months behind Oxford which has already entered a human trials phase, which is why we decided to additionally partnered with the university, he added.
When asked about the cost factor, Mr Poonawalla said it is too early to put an exact figure to it but his company is “known for facilitating vaccines at an affordable price.”
But it would come to around Rs 1,000, factoring in projects that were put on the back burner to push forward with this one.
Meanwhile, some experts have raised concerns over the efficiency of a vaccine to prevent the SARS-COV-2, for which Mr. Poonawalla said,
I think we should wait to reveal a conclusion until the trials are completed on the success of the vaccine. However,
we have a very high confidence for this technology that we’re using right now to develop the vaccine since it has worked for us before for Ebola vaccine, so we think that the chances of this working will be very high. On the other hand, we still don’t have clarity on if this will be an annual vaccine but scientists at Oxford think that it will be a one shot vaccine, which will be cost economically feasible for majority of the people.
The human trial of the Oxford University’s vaccine started on April 23.