India to get 10cr COVID-19 vaccine doses by December: SII

Siddhant Pandey
·3-min read
India to get 10cr COVID-19 vaccine doses by December: SII
India to get 10cr COVID-19 vaccine doses by December: SII

14 Nov 2020: India to get 10cr COVID-19 vaccine doses by December: SII

The Serum Institute of India is hoping to produce 100 million (10 crore) doses of AstraZeneca and Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine, CEO Adar Poonawalla said.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Poonawalla said the SII may get emergency-use authorization for the vaccine—to be sold as Covishield in India—by December.

The SII is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer and has partnered with AstraZeneca to produce one billion doses.

Details: Initial 100 million doses to go to India

Poonawalla said the Pune-based SII is aiming to ready 100 million vaccine doses by December and an inoculation drive in India could begin the same month.

This initial batch will go to India and will be used to vaccinate the vulnerable and frontline workers.

If final-stage trial data shows that the vaccine offers effective protection against the coronavirus, the SII may get emergency-use authorization.

Fact: After full approval, half the doses will go to India

The vaccine candidate will be distributed on a 50:50 basis with India and COVAX upon getting full approval. COVAX is the World Health Organization-led initiative to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

Vaccine: Vaccine 'looking pretty good,' says Poonawalla

The vaccine has been made from a weakened, genetically-modified version of a common cold virus, or adenovirus, that causes infections in chimpanzees, but cannot grow in the human body.

Poonawalla said that both AstraZeneca and Novavax's shots "are looking pretty good." The SII is also aiming to start manufacturing Novavax's vaccine soon.

AstraZeneca is preparing for the possibility of large-scale vaccinations by December.

Fact: Global vaccination could take until 2024: Poonawalla

AstraZeneca and Oxford University still need to see testing results. Even if the vaccine proves effective and gets regulatory approval, its distribution will remain a challenge. Poonawalla said it may take until 2024 to vaccinate the world and two years until infections reduce significantly.

Challenges: Lack of vaccination infrastructure in India another challenge

Vaccinating India's 1.3 billion people is another hurdle.

Notably, past immunization drives have faced challenges in the vast countryside. Critics argue that India does not have a system in place to go beyond vaccinating children and pregnant women.

Further, Poonawalla had highlighted in September that India needs Rs. 80,000 crore for vaccines, much higher than the Rs. 50,000 crore the government had earmarked.

Pfizer: Covishield has an edge over Pfizer's vaccine, says Poonawalla

Poonawalla also spoke on Pfizer's vaccine, which made headlines earlier this week.

Poonawalla said AstraZeneca's vaccine has an edge over Pfizer's contender as the latter needs to be stored at -70°C, which is "just impossible" for most parts of the world to use at scale.

The vaccine being produced by the SII can be stored at fridge temperatures, he said.

Outbreak: How bad is the outbreak in India?

As of 8 am on Saturday, India reported a total of 87,73,479 COVID-19 cases, after registering 44,684 new cases in the past 24 hours.

The total cases include 4,80,719 active cases and 81,63,572 recoveries. The death toll climbed to 1,29,188 with the addition of 520 more fatalities.

Although India remains the world's second worst-hit country, the outbreak's pace has been slowing down.