As the race to create viable vaccines to combat the COVID-19 virus continues, Indians are likely to soon have something to look forward to. The Oxford-AstraZeneca team recently announced that it's vaccine candidate was proving highly effective in stopping people from developing COVID-19 symptoms. Interim data has suggested about 70% protection, however there is evidence to indicate that tweaking the dosage could make it as effective as 90%. Several other candidates including those by Pfizer and Moderna have also released their results recently with the two vaccines showing around 95% protection.
What is Covishield?
Covishield is a version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, AZD1222. It is being developed by the Serum Institute of India using the “master seed” of AZD1222 and is currently undergoing late-stage human trials. From the vaccines being developed within the country it is probably the candidate closest to the finish line.
Another contender is Bharat Biotech's Covaxin which the company says is expected to be 60% effective.
When will it be available to people in India?
While Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of Pune-based Serum Institute of India says that every Indian was likely to get vaccinated by 2024, the vaccine would become available far sooner. The CEO had recently said that the vaccine should become available for healthcare workers and elderly people by around February 2021 and by April for the general public.
However, according to reports, it can become available as early as next month. Reportedly the company has indicated that it can start supplying doses of the vaccine for emergency and limited use by the end of December, as long as it receives a regulatory nod.
This however should not prove to be a hurdle. According to India’s top drug regulator, companies seeking regulatory approval would have to show that their vaccine candidate would show the required response in at least 50% of those vaccinated during human testing.
What will be the price?
Compared to many of its competitors Covishield will be a far cheaper option, which in turn makes it especially viable for people in India, many of whom live under the poverty line. While Poonawalla had recently said that the vaccine would be priced at a maximum of Rs. 1,000 for two necessary doses, further details have now emerged.
According to him, the Serum Institute of India will sell the vaccine to the government for Rs 250 and to pharmacies for Rs 1,000 per dose. recent reports have also quoted him as stating that this price could come down to Rs 500 to Rs 600 in the private market for the general public. The cost for the government would be far less as they would be buying millions of doses.