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Covid vaccination in India may start in Jan, expect normal life to return by Oct: Adar Poonawalla

New Delhi: Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said the Covid-19 vaccination drive was likely begin in India by January as his firm — which is testing and manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate — was expecting to get emergency-use authorisation by month-end.

Speaking at The Economic Times Global Business Summit, Adar Poonawalla said he expected everyone in India to be vaccinated by October 2021 following which normal life could return.

“By this month-end, we might get an emergency licence [for the coronavirus vaccine], but the actual licence for wider use might come in at a later date. But we are confident that if the regulators give a nod, India’s vaccination drive can start by January 2021,” Adar Poonawalla said.

“Once 20% of India gets the coronavirus vaccine, we can hopefully see the confidence and sentiments coming back, and by September-October next year hopefully there will be enough vaccines for everyone and normal life can return,” the SII chief said.

Last week, the Subject Expert Committee (SEC), which is scrutinising applications by three firms for emergency use authorisation of their Covid-19 vaccines in India, asked the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech for additional late-stage safety and efficacy data from their ongoing clinical trials.

As per the minutes of the SEC meeting, the SII was asked to submit, specifically, safety data on Phase 2/3 clinical trials in India of its vaccine candidate named Covishield, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca; immunogenicity data from the clinical trial in the UK and India; as well as the outcome of the UK regulatory authority’s assessment regarding its emergency use authorisation application. The expert committee noted that the SII has only “submitted safety data till November 14”, and that the principal investigator of its study, Dr Sushant Meshram, who is involved in the trials, did not attend the meeting.

The interim results of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trials, published in The Lancet, shows that the vaccine protects against symptomatic disease in 70 per cent of cases, with vaccine efficacy of 62 per cent for those given two full doses, and of 90 per cent in those given a half, and then a full dose.

The Oxford vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus viral vector that can’t cause disease in humans and expresses the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This means the vaccine delivers the spike protein genetic code into vaccinated people’s cells, which then produce the protein, teaching the immune system to recognise and attack the virus.


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