- Pfizer vaccine has been cleared by the UK and will be rolled out soon
- For vaccine to be allowed in India it must clear clinical trials here
- Pfizer or its partner companies have not asked to hold trials in India
The Covid vaccine developed by American pharma giant Pfizer, which was cleared by the United Kingdom Wednesday and will be rolled out to the public early next week, is unlikely to be available in India at this time, sources have told NDTV.
For a vaccine to be allowed in India it must clear clinical trials here, and sources said neither Pfizer nor its partner companies had asked to hold such trials. This means that even if Pfizer partners with an Indian company now it will take some time for the vaccine to be available in the country.
However, the Drugs Controller General of India has "discretionary power to waive localised clinical trials for a vaccine", sources said, but also noted that till date all vaccines cleared by the DCGI had at least cleared limited Phase 3 trials.
The government did hold talks with Pfizer in August but there has been no development since, the sources also said, adding that in India the focus remains on five other candidates, including one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and produced by the Pune-based Serum Institute.
Last week AstraZeneca said its candidate - Covishield - could be around 90 per cent effective on following one of two dosing regimens. The average efficacy of two regimens was 70 per cent.
Covishield, which is at the head of the list of vaccine candidates likely to be rolled out in India, will be produced by the Serum Institute, which has committed to making at least 100 million doses available by the end of January and hundreds of million by the end of February.
Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Sunday that he would ask the centre for an emergency use license within three weeks.
The AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, and the one by Bharat Biotech, are being closely monitored, particularly by poorer countries, since they are expected to be significantly cheaper than their rivals and more stable.
The latter point means transportation and storage (can be stored at normal fridge temperatures) will be easier - vital for India since access to remote areas can make vaccine delivery a challenge.
The Pfizer vaccine (which has been cleared by the UK) reported an efficacy rate of over 90 per cent. Another global vaccine candidate - developed by Moderna Inc., which has also not sought permission to hold clinical trials in India - reported 94.1 per cent.
Over the past 10 days Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held multiple meetings with pharma companies, vaccine developers and manufacturers (including the Serum Institute) and government officials to review efforts to create and distribute a coronavirus vaccine.
The race to produce viable Covid vaccines assumes greater importance and urgency with each passing day; the novel coronavirus has ravaged the global population, killing nearly 14.8 lakh people since the pandemic broke in China in December last year.
In India, the second worst-hit country, 95 lakh cases have been reported so far, of which around 4.28 lakh are active cases and over 1.38 lakh are deaths linked to the virus.
With input from Reuters