As the new Covid strain 'Omicron' raises alarm across the globe, Adar Poonawalla, the chief of Serum Institute of India which manufactures COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, in an exclusive interview to NDTV said that Omicron-specific booster shots are possible and added that the focus of the government must remain to get everyone double vaccinated.
Here are the Highlights:
- As the lancet has reported that Covishield's efficacy is very high and significantly reduces chances of hospitalisation and possibility of death.
The tests are on for Omicron, and we should have the results in a couple of weeks.
Scientists at Oxford are also continuing their research, and based on their findings, we may come out with a new vaccine which would act as a booster in 6 months time from now. Based on the research, we would know about the 3rd and 4th dose for us all.
It is not necessary that the efficacy of Covishield would drop with time.
The message for all - and a priority - is for everyone to get the 2 doses of the vaccine. That is the first step to stay protected. It is only after that that one can enhance that safety with boosters over the next year.
The focus of the government must remain to get everyone double vaccinated.
- We have hundred of millions of stock in our campus. We have over 200 million doses reserved for states and UTs in India. So, if the government is to announce a booster dose, we are well stocked.
- We also have a lot of stock of Covovax, which is a new vaccine and is likely to get licenced in a few weeks.
For CoviShield, the price will not change. That is a fixed price and we shall keep it at that.
Our message to the world is that India is here for you and we have more than the adequate amount of vaccine doses required for the world. We can very well play our part in being the pharmacy of the world - a tag given to our nation.
As for our production... we are currently producing around 250 million doses of vaccines a month, so we can easily match China's 1 billion vaccine doses claim in a matter of less than 6 months and far exceed that too.
At present, and for the foreseeable future, the Indian vaccine industry need not depend on import of raw materials.
No, no Covishield for children. Our approach for vaccinating children will be with CovoVax - the new vaccine awaiting licencing in India and should be done soon. The CovoVax will be available for children in the next 6 months. Our approach is to vaccinate children right down to the age of 2 years old with CovoVax.
We will now export the CovoVax vaccine for the time being and within a few months, once we approvals in India, we will make it available in India too. And that will cater to children in India.
For now we do not want Indians to get stuck with CovoVax as it has not got approvals worldwide for purposes of travel, so adults should take the Covishield vaccine as it is acceptable worldwide.
CovoVax, which is called NovoVax in the US and select European markets is seeing delays worldwide in regulatory procedural approvals, so there are some delays.
We all need to be prepared that for the next 10 years, we would need to keep taking booster shots - 1 or 2 every year to keep us safe against new variants of COVID-19 in the time to come.