Pune firm to make billion doses of Oxford vaccine

Serum Institute chief says chances of its failure look remote and India will be its largest producer

July 22, 2020 04:11 am | Updated 11:38 am IST - Pune:

SII had earlier said at least 300 million doses would be ready by December.

SII had earlier said at least 300 million doses would be ready by December.

Stating that just a few million doses of the vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus will not be enough for India, Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, Chairman of the Poonawalla Group, which includes the Serum Institute of India (SII), on Tuesday said that the SII was committed to manufacture at least one billion doses of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine after getting required approvals.

Commenting on the possibilities of setbacks in terms of productivity and output of the eagerly-anticipated vaccine, Dr. Poonawalla said: “We [the SII] have come at a stage where chances of failure [of the Oxford vaccine project] look remote as we are spending more than $100 million for this facility. If we get the approvals and trials are completed successfully to ensure a safe and efficacious vaccine, then lots of companies will manufacture it and India will be the largest producer of the COVID vaccine in the world.”

With the trials of the SII’s COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University showing encouraging results, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII) had earlier said at least 300 million doses of the potential vaccine named ‘Covishield’ would be ready by December this year.

“We are in the process of applying for a licence to start clinical trials of the vaccine, after which we will start manufacturing the vaccine in large volumes. For that, we might have to hold back our work on other products,” said Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, speaking during an online discussion organised by the women’s wing of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

“Phase 1 of the clinical trial is over and Phases 2 and 3 are underway in Austria…the vaccine will be ready by December this year. We want to make it available at the lowest price possible so that even the poor can afford it. Besides India, we also want to make it available to places like Africa,” Dr. Poonawalla said.

Stating that there was no evidence thus far of the mutation of the COVID-19 virus and that the theory ought not be taken seriously, Dr. Poonawala said he strongly advocated the use of SII’s recombitant Bacille Calmette-Guerian (BCG) vaccine for everyone as it was “an immunity booster with no side-effects and was better than Homeopathy medicines.”

He also said that the SII had requested the Central government to give permission to make the first dispensation of the vaccine for its employees who were at high risk of contracting the virus.

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