On the 20th of July, a pharma company by the name of Oxford-AstraZeneca announced that the first two phases of their much-awaited coronavirus vaccine trial were complete, and the results were ready to be released. These results have raised hopes among healthcare workers around the world that an effective COVID-19 vaccine will be available by 2021.
Already, the pharmaceutical company has developed links with various vaccine producers around the world to ramp up production of the new vaccine, in light of the pandemic now ravaging the planet. Currently, phase III of the trials is underway. One such trial is expected to begin in India within a few months.
According to a study published in the journal known as The Lancet, the newly-developed Oxford vaccine was able to create a ‘safe’ immune response in the body by causing a spike in the production of antibodies. This spike in antibody production could effectively keep the coronavirus at bay without causing any damage to the human body.
A Billion Doses for India
The Poonawalla Group, one of India’s major business houses, has tied up with Oxford-AstraZeneca (as well as Oxford University) to produce the newly-developed coronavirus vaccine in the country.
The Chairman of the Poonawalla Group, which also owns the Serum Institute of India (SII), is Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla. He said in a recent statement that just a few million doses of the vaccine will not be enough for the huge, vulnerable population of India.
Therefore, Dr. Poonawalla assured the nation that the Serum Institute would, in the near future, manufacture at least a billion doses of the Oxford vaccine, if not more. Before the production process can begin, however, the requisite approvals need to be acquired by the company.
The SII is all set to begin manufacturing the eagerly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine at scale. While the possibility of a setback can never be ruled out completely, Dr. Poonawalla believes that the SII has arrived at a stage where the chances of failure are quite low.
More than $100 million USD is being invested by the Poonawalla Group on the Oxford vaccine project and the relevant production facilities. Now, all that is left is for the company to acquire the relevant approvals to begin production.
If the clinical trials are completed successfully, then Dr. Poonawalla believes that India could potentially become the largest manufacturer of the COVID-19 vaccine in the world, as many other pharma companies will inevitably join the race for vaccine production and distribution.
Vaccines for the Rich and the Poor Alike
Earlier this year, the Serum Institute of India had released a statement saying that over 300 million doses of the COVID vaccine will be ready for distribution by December 2020. So far, the research team at the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has been showing encouraging results, but experts believe that an effective vaccine probably wouldn’t be made widely available before 2021. The new vaccine is to be named ‘Covishield’.
The Poonawalla Group and the SII have already initiated the process of applying for a license to begin clinical trials of the vaccine. Once the trials have been successfully completed, the vaccine will begin to be produced in large volumes at their facilities. In order to make this possible, work on other products manufactured by the company will be temporarily halted.
Currently, clinical trials for the COVID vaccine are underway in Austria. The Poonawalla Group aims to mass-produce the vaccine in India and make it available at the lowest possible price point, so that even the poorest of the poor can afford it, thus eradicating the disease from this country. Besides that, Dr. Poonawalla also aims to make the vaccine available in other economically disadvantaged regions like Africa.
Protection from the Virus
For now, Dr. Poonawalla suggested the use of common immunity boosters to prevent a coronavirus infection. The SII has manufactured various immunity booster drugs over the years and they are as effective as any newfangled medicine or drug that claims to minimize the risk of COVID-19.
To safeguard its employees, the SII has sought permission from the Central government to distribute the first batch of the corona vaccine among its workers. This is because, according to the Institute, those working in their manufacturing facilities are at high risk of contracting the virus due to the nature of their work.
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