The UK government has accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, named Covishield, for emergency use. This has fuelled speculations that India, where it is being manufactured by Serum Institute of India, will also approve the Oxford vaccine soon. The vaccine developed by the Oxford University has shown 70 per cent efficacy, which can go up to 90 per cent under certain conditions.
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO, said the approval in the UK is a significant step forward in the fight against this pandemic. “In 2020, teams across AstraZeneca have risen to the challenges COVID-19 has posed to global health,” he said.
The approval by the UK government follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by the MHRA, which says the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
The country has already approved the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine candidate in December, and has started a vaccination drive in the country. Over 600,000 people in the UK have already been vaccinated since Pfizer vaccine got the mandatory approval. The government has ordered 100 million doses from AstraZeneca, which is more than enough to vaccine its 50 million people.
The approval is a big boost to Serum Institute, which is among the top three vaccine makers in the race to help India inoculate its massive population. It has already applied for regulatory approval with the Drug Controller General of India but is yet to get the mandatory approval for its vaccine.
The world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, Serum Institute has already manufactured 50 million doses of Covishield vaccine on at-risk funding. Overall, the vaccine giants aim to develop 3.2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines at its facilities in India.
SII chief executive Adar Poonawalla had earlier said the vaccine candidate could get approval by next week in India and might be rolled out for the masses in January. “The company is ramping up capacity every week,” he said.
The approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being hailed as a major step in the direction of fight against coronavirus as the vaccine is cheap and easy to produce. While temperature that needs to be maintained for transportation and storage of the Pfizer vaccine is -70 degree Celsius, the Oxford vaccine can be stored in a standard fridge. This makes the vaccine easy to store and procure and transport.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised the priority should inoculate at-risk groups first rather than providing the required two doses in as short time as possible. “Everyone will still receive their second dose and this will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection,” the JCVI said.