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NEW DELHI: Serum Institute of India chief executive Adar Poonawalla said on Saturday that the company has begun the phase 2 and 3 clinical trial for Covovax and hopes to launch the vaccine by September.

“Covovax trials finally begin in India; the vaccine is made through a partnership with Novavax and Serum Institute of India... Hope to launch by September 2021!" Poonawalla tweeted.

On Friday, Mint had reported that the phase 2 and 3 bridging study for Covovax has begun at one of the four clinical trial sites in Pune on Thursday, and soon enrolment of participants is likely to start at other sites.

The new timeline given by Poonawalla indicates another deferment for its launch. On 30 January, after announcement of the first interim efficacy data by Novavax, the CEO of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer had said that it hopes to launch the vaccine by June. However, earlier this month, at the Bloomberg Equity Summit, he said that the launch was expected by August.

The vaccine is one of the most awaited vaccines due to the strong efficacy data from Novavax’s own trial in the UK.

Covovax is Serum Institute’s version of the covid-19 vaccine developed by US-based Novavax, which had announced earlier this month that the jabs have an efficacy of 96% against the original strain determined in a phase 3 trial conducted in the UK. This is the highest efficacy so far achieved for a covid-19 vaccine against the original strain of the coronavirus.

However, efficacy of the vaccine dropped to 86.3% against the mutant variant that is now the dominant strain in the UK. On average, the efficacy of the vaccine was 89.7%, the company said.

In another phase 2 trial conducted in South Africa, where a different mutant variant is dominant, the overall efficacy dropped to 48.6%.

Poonawalla has earlier said that the company will start stockpiling the vaccine from April. Serum Institute will be manufacturing 1 billion doses of the vaccine, which will be supplied to both India and Covax.

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