India should be able to make available a COVID-19 vaccine in a matter of weeks now to its population, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said on Monday while launching Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Pneumococcal Cojugate Vaccine: Pneumonsil.
“Everybody is desperately waiting for a vaccine, but the wait is likely to end soon,’’ he stated.
SII is testing and manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which has emerged as the front runner in the race for getting an emergency use approval in the country. It is awaiting approval in the U.K.
SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said that while a positive news should be expected soon, “we cannot compromise on the safety of the vaccine and so must allow the regulatory authorities to do their work without any pressure.”
The company had 40-50 million doses of vaccine COVISHIELD stockpiled. “Once we get regulatory approvals in a few days, it’ll be down to the government to decide how much they can take and how fast. We will be producing around 300 million doses by July 2021.” he stated.
Mr. Adar, however, noted that the first six months of 2021 would see a vaccine shortage globally.
“Nobody can help that. But we will see easing off by August-September 2021 as other vaccine manufactures also start supply. India is a part of COVAX – a global initiative working towards global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. We will be sharing 50 % of our manufactured vaccine between India and COVAX at the same time. Initially, India will get more doses of the vaccine since global clearances will take an additional month or more to come through. Also India has such a large population so we will probably end up giving the majority of those 50 million doses to India first,’’ he said.
Vaccine for pneumonia
Giving details of SII’s pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the company said it had been tailor-made for cases of pneumonia reported in India.
Mr. Poonawala said this would be the most affordable vaccine for pneumonia in the whole world. India’s drug regulator had granted market approval for the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Conjugate vaccine, after reviewing the phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trial data submitted by SII.