- Coronavirus vaccine could be ready as early as December: Adar Poonawalla
- Serum Institute aiming for 100 million doses of Oxford vaccine at first
- More than 150 potential vaccines are being developed and tested globally
The Oxford coronavirus vaccine produced by India's Serum Institute could be ready as early as December and the first batch of 100 million doses should be available by the second or third quarter of 2021, Adar Poonawalla, chief of the Pune-based company told NDTV on Wednesday.
While government clearances for the vaccine may be available in December or January, the rollout of the vaccine in India may still take a few months. Widespread availability across the country could take up to two months post any government sanction.
"If we don't go for an emergency license, our trials should be over by December and then we can maybe we can launch in India in January subject to the UK trial also being completed which it's on the verge on being completed," Mr Poonawalla said.
"If the UK in the next two weeks were to unblind their study and share the data and be confident that it's safe, then we can, after two-three weeks, apply to the Indian regulator to look at a possible emergency license if that's what the government of India wants," he said.
"That review could take about two-three weeks I imagine and then you can have a vaccine by December but all these would have to happen and I don't want to venture a guess whether that would happen or not happen because it's not my place to do so - that's for the health ministry officials to decide," he added.
Elaborating on the general availability of the vaccine, he said, "We are aiming for 100 million available doses at first. This should be available by Q2-Q3 of 2021."
Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine maker by number of doses produced, is working on several vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus - including the one from AstraZeneca-Oxford University that has garnered global headlines - as well as developing its own.
More than 150 potential vaccines are being developed and tested globally, with 38 in human trials, and candidates from Moderna Inc, Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc are already in late-stage trials.
There are no immediate concerns about the safety of the Oxford vaccines, Adar Poonawalla said, adding that though early indicators are all positive, it will take a year or two to be certain that the vaccine candidate will have a long-term effect.
"The vaccine is very safe. Thousands of people have had it in India and abroad so we're cracking on. On track with no safety concerns," he said.
"The vaccine, when we have one, will be a two-dose vaccine. The gap between the two doses will be 28 days," he said.
""It's going to be very affordable. It'll be a few hundred rupees and it's going to be way cheaper than even a test - a RTPCR test today or a rapid antigen test. The government will take most of that load on, financially, and that conversation is going on very well as well," he said.
Mr Poonawalla also said that he expected the Serum Institute-produced vaccine to be much more affordable than the Sanofi-GSK and Moderna vaccines.
"If you go back in March-April, people thought I was crazy, my critics said that you don't know what you're doing, how can you go ahead with this. But the way I look at it is that if we don't commit to two or three principles in science and to these trials, we won't have hope in hell," he said.
The decision making took around 2-3 hours, not because of the finances, but because these decisions were technical and we had to see which candidate to invest in," he added.
India's coronavirus tally neared the 80-lakh mark on Wednesday, registering 43,893 new cases and 508 deaths in the last 24 hours. The country is fast approaching the US in total infections which is the world's worst-affected nation with more than 87 lakh cases.