The New Year has brought some good news for which people have been anxiously waiting. India is all set to roll out the Coronavirus vaccine, Covishield, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca in the next few days. Covishield is the first vaccine to get approval in India for restricted use.
An expert panel set up by the government has reportedly approved the vaccine for emergency use in India against Covid-19. According to Reuters, a subject expert panel constituted by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), to vet Covid-19 vaccine proposals, recommended sanctioning emergency use authorisation to AstraZeneca’s vaccine AZD1222, called as Covishield in India. The DCGI’s nod is still awaited.
AstraZeneca signed a pact with the Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune, for the large-scale production of the vaccine, the dry run of which would be carried out for two days, January 2 and January 3, in all the states.
Dry run today
A dry run is aimed at checking the best way to vaccinate people and plug loopholes in logistics. This drive will also test the operational feasibility in the use of CoWIN application. This is the second dry run being conducted in the country, the first was held on December 28 and December 29 in four states — Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab.
Briefing about the vaccine roll out, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said that scientists at their firm have been working tirelessly for the last 7-8 months to roll out the vaccine at the earliest possible.
Millions of doses are getting readied for the launch of the vaccine. The vaccine doses are being manufactured following all the safety standards to ensure maximum efficacy in terms of production of antibodies.
30 cr to get vaccinated in first phase
The SII CEO said that as many as 50 million doses have been readied and that 30 crore Indians would be vaccinated in the first phase. Vaccination would be done basing on priority basis and for the vulnerable groups, including frontline health workers.
Coming to the advantages of Covishield, he pointed out that the vaccine was cheaper, can be stored at normal fridge temperature, does not need expensive cold chain, easier to transport, manufactured by an Indian firm which means the transportation cost could be cut down and that human trials were conducted in a massive scale in India.
Even before the completion of the third phase of human trials, the SII had to bet early on and begin manufacturing the vaccine. However, Poonawalla said that Covishield has an efficacy of 70.4%.
As the results of the third phase of human trials are still not out, the vaccine manufacturer cannot release it into the open market. The SII would only supply it to the government and this is called ‘restricted use’.
Manufacture and cost of vaccine
The Union government has not signed a purchase agreement with the SII but the company said it would focus on home market first and then think of exports.
“For the government, Covishield will cost about USD 3 per dose, which means USD 6 (Rs 440) per person as every individual needs two doses. In the private market, it will cost around Rs 700-Rs 800, Poonawalla said.
At the moment, 5,000 doses are being readied per minute at SII and the speed would be doubled in February. Each bottle has 50 ml of vaccine which can be administered to 10 different people in 4-5 hours of opening the vial.
The vials are being washed with a high-pressure water jet going into them and then they are sterilised when they pass through a tunnel at 200 degrees, making them ready to receive the vaccine.
Vaccines do have some side effects but they are not to be considered serious, said Adar Poonawalla.