Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine: India readies five sites for human trials
India has prepared five sites for the final human trials phase of the potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University, reports PTI. The vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, showed encouraging results and is expected to be available for the Indian population by the first quarter of 2021. Notably, Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has partnered with Oxford for the vaccine's mass production. Here's more.
Context: After months of efforts, Oxford made a breakthrough
According to a report published in The Lancet journal, the vaccine, developed by the illustrious UK institute and British-Swedish pharma giant, AstraZeneca, was administered to 1,077 healthy adults (between 18 and 55 years of age) at five hospitals. It was observed that the vaccine generated neutralizing antibodies in most candidates. Besides, it also induced virus-attacking T-cells, providing double protection from the disease.
SII aimed for human trials by August, government agreed
As positive news from the UK emerged, companies involved with the process breathed a sigh of relief. SII's CEO Adar Poonawalla said the company will start the human trials in India by August and is awaiting permissions. Confirming that phase three of human trials will happen in India, Renu Swarup, Secretary of Department of Biotechnology (DBT), said that five sites are already prepped up.
DBT wants data in India before vaccine is administered
Further, Swarup also said DBT was part of all COVID-19 efforts in India, whether it was through funding, facilitating the regulatory clearances or providing the developers access to different networks. "Phase 3 trial of Serum (Institute) is important because if the vaccine has to be successful and it has to be given to the Indian population we need to have the data," she explained.
Human trials happen in three phases to judge vaccine's safety
To note, in phase 1 of human trials, the vaccine is given to a handful of people. In the next phase, children and the elderly get it. After reassuring results in these two phases, the vaccine enters the third phase of human trials, wherein the medicine is administered to thousands of people. Two indigenous vaccines are currently in phase 1 of human trials.
SII hopes to start manufacturing before final approval comes
Earlier, SII, which is the world's largest producer of vaccines, had said the company would start manufacturing the vaccine, even before the final nod is received to ensure a sizeable amount is ready when the permissions eventually come. The company is equipped to produce 300 million doses. About the cost, Poonawalla said they are trying to keep it under Rs. 1,000.
Meanwhile, India's death toll crossed 33,000
Since its outbreak in China late last year, COVID-19 has killed 656,550 around the world and infected 16,644,069. India is the third-worst hit nation, after the United States and Brazil, with an infections' tally of 1,483,156. In the last 24 hours, 47,703 new cases and 654 deaths were reported from across the country. The death toll has now reached 33,425.