Vaccine maker Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawalla on Thursday said the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine should be available for healthcare workers and elderly people by around February 2021 and by April for the general public, and will be priced at a maximum of ₹1,000 for two necessary doses for the public, depending on the final trial results and regulatory approvals.
Probably by 2024, every Indian would get vaccinated, he said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, 2020.
“It will probably take two or three years for every Indian to get inoculated, not just because of the supply constraints but because you need the budget, the vaccine, logistics, infrastructure and then, people should be willing to take the vaccine.”
Asked at what price the public will get it, he said it will be around USD 5-6 per dose with an MRP of around ₹1,000 for the two necessary doses.
“The government of India will be getting it at a far cheaper price at around USD 3-4, because it will be buying in a large volume and get access to the price that is similar to what COVAX has got. We are still pricing it far cheaper and more affordable than other vaccines we have in the market today,” Mr. Poonawalla said.
Asked about the efficacy of the vaccine, he said the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is so far proving to work very well even in elderly people, which was a concern earlier.
“It has induced a good T-cell response, which is an indicator for your long-term immunity and antibody response but then again, time will only tell if these vaccines are going to protect you in the long term. Nobody can answer that for any of the vaccines today,” Mr. Poonawalla said.
Responding to a question on the safety aspect, he said there has been no major complaints, reactions or adverse events, adding, “We would need to wait and see. The efficacy and immunogenicity results from the Indian trials will come out in about a month-and-a half.”
‘Children have to wait’
Asked when the SII will apply for an emergency authorisation, Mr. Poonawalla said as soon as the UK authorities and the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA) approve it for emergency use, it will apply to the drug controller for emergency use authorisation in India.
“But that will be for a limited use for frontline workers, healthcare workers and elderly people,” he added.
Children would have to wait a little longer till the safety data is out, but the good news is that COVID-19 is not so bad and serious for them, Mr. Poonawalla said.
“Unlike measles pneumonia, which is deadly, this disease is seeming to be less of a nuisance for children but then, they can be carriers and can give the infection to others.
“We want to vaccinate the elderly people and others who are the most vulnerable first. Once we have enough safety data to go in on children, we can recommend it for children too,” he said.
Mr. Poonawalla said the Oxford vaccine was affordable, safe and could be stored at a temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius, which was an ideal temperature for it to be stored in the cold storages of India.
He said the SII planned to make about 10 crore doses a month from February.