India set to start COVID-19 vaccination; panel approves Oxford vaccine
In a development that will soothe the coronavirus-battered nation, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) panel on Friday gave approval to the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and British-pharma giant AstraZeneca. Now, the vaccine is awaiting a green signal from the Drugs Controller General of India, Dr. VG Somani. Once that is given, the inoculation process will begin. Here's more.
The panel met today — the first day of 2021 — to judge pleas filed by Serum Institute of India (SII), which partnered with Oxford to produce millions of doses of the vaccine, and Bharat Biotech, which is developing COVAXIN. US-based Pfizer's application was also taken up. The chances of SII looked bright after the Oxford vaccine was approved by the United Kingdom administration.
The vaccine, dubbed Covishield in India, will cost somewhere between Rs. 700 and Rs. 800 for the private market, SII's CEO Adar Poonawalla had said earlier. Though SII has reportedly already produced 50 million doses of the vaccine, it will concentrate on fulfilling the home market's demands before turning the focus on export. India plans to vaccinate 30 crore people in the next six-eight months.
The vaccine consists of the replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector (ChAdOx1) based on a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) containing the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein. After vaccination, the spike protein produced triggers an immune response that offers protection against future SARS-CoV-2 infections. The two-dose vaccine has been found to have an average efficacy of 70%.
The last time the expert panel met was on Wednesday and concluded that some documents were missing, which SII had to update. "Further time was requested on behalf of Pfizer. The additional data and information presented by SII and Bharat Biotech Pvt. Ltd. were perused and analyzed by the SEC. The analysis of additional data and information is going on," a statement revealed earlier.
Earlier, Dr. Somani had indicated that India will approve a vaccine in the new year. "Probably, we will have a happy New Year with something in hand. That is what I can hint at," he said on Thursday. The approval of the vaccine came a day before states are slated to begin a dry run for the vaccination. The first dry run was successful.