Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

Serum Institute of India (SII), CEO, Adar Poonawalla on Monday said that he is delighted to hear that Covidshield, soon to be widely available COVID-19 vaccine, will offer protection up to 90% in one dosage regime and 62% in another.

"Delighted to hear that, Covishield, soon to be widely available COVID-19 vaccine, will offer protection up to 90% in one dosage regime and 62% in another," said Poonawalla.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being made in partnership with Serum Institute.

With an efficacy of around 90%, positive results from an interim analysis of clinical trials of AZD1222 in the UK and Brazil the vaccine has proved to be highly effective in preventing COVID-19, said AstraZeneca on Monday.

One dosing regimen shows the vaccine efficacy of 90% when AZD1222 was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least a month apart.

Second dosing regimen shows 62% efficacy when given two full doses at least a month apart. Combined analysis has an average efficacy of 70%, AstraZeneca said in a statement.

No serious safety events related to the vaccine have been confirmed and it was well tolerated across both dosing regimens.

Advantages of Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine

Although the reported overall efficacy for Covishield is lower than some of its competitors like Pfizer and Moderna's respective COVID-19 vaccines, experts presume that Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine might still have advantages compared to its competitors.

According to a Reuters report citing infectious diseases and global health experts at the University of Oxford, the vaccine prevents not just the disease but also the infection itself, thereby having the potential to prove more useful in the long run in cutting the spread of the pandemic.

Storage
Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine does not require 'ultra-cold storage' which may make it easier to store as well as administer. According to experts, the Covishield COVID-19 vaccine "can be stored in the fridge, as opposed to the freezer like the other two vaccines, which means it is a more practical solution for use worldwide.” In contrast, the Pfizer-BioNTech shot needs to be refrigerated at -70 degrees.

Logistics

It could also mean that the Covishiled vaccine may indeed be circulated at a cheaper cost and a better cost-to-result ratio, as Poonawalla has put.

India is one of the countries which cannot lower its guard on prevention of virus spread till a robust vaccine, taking into account several challenges including logistics and supply chain for distribution, is made available for immunisation against COVID-19.

Besides production, the other challenges for COVID-19 vaccine distribution were logistics and supply.

Most vaccines may require at least two doses, possibly the second one to be administered after a certain number of days, which increases difficulties in logistics and supply.

A major concern was that it would not be known till two or three years whether a vaccine was really good or not for long term protection

In addition, the vaccines of some companies require a minus 70-degree cold chain which would be tough to arrange beyond major cities.

Therefore, the Oxford vaccine's trials have kindled hope among experts in these improbable times.

Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial at Oxford, said, "These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly, we've found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90 per cent effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply. Today's announcement is only possible thanks to the many volunteers in our trial, and the hard working and talented team of researchers based around the world."

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What's next for AstraZeneca?

AstraZeneca will now immediately prepare the regulatory submission of the data to authorities around the world that have a framework in place for conditional or early approval. The Company will seek an Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization for an accelerated pathway to vaccine availability in low-income countries. In parallel, the full analysis of the interim results is being submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Company is making rapid progress in manufacturing with a capacity of up to 3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021 on a rolling basis, pending regulatory approval. The vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2-8 degrees Celsius/ 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months and administered within existing healthcare settings.

Where are we in the vaccine race?

The Serum Institute of India is conducting the phase-3 trial of the Oxford vaccine,while that of the indigenously developed COVAXIN of Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has already begun.

Dr Reddy's Laboratories would conduct the phase 2/3 human clinical trials of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, in India.

Also, the Biological E Ltd has started Phase I/II clinical trial of its COVID-19 subunit vaccine candidate in India.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have announced that their vaccine candidate was found to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, while Modernahas claimed that its vaccine candidate was found to have an efficacy of nearly 94.5%.

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