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Pfizer is in talks with the Indian government to sell its covid-19 vaccine candidate, which it believes has the potential to be an important part of the early vaccine response, a company spokesperson said in an email response.

“We remain committed to advance our dialogue with the government of India to make this vaccine available for use in the country," the spokesperson said.

Government officials, seeking anonymity, also confirmed that India is in talks with Pfizer for its messenger RNA vaccine, along with a number of other domestic and foreign developers of vaccine candidates.

The Pfizer spokesperson said it expects to produce up to 50 million doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. “If our vaccine candidate is successful, Pfizer would allocate the available doses across the countries where we have fully executed supply agreements," he said.

Pfizer does not have a distribution agreement so far with any firm in India. It also does not have a formal pact with Covax, the covid vaccine access initiative of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and World Health Organization.

The major hurdle for the vaccine, like most other messenger RNA candidates, is it requires a storage temperature of within a range of -90°C to -60°C. In fact, the requirement for ultra-low temperature freezers, which is not available in India, is one of the reasons why the government is not enthused about procuring the vaccine, which is being developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, a government official said seeking anonymity.

However, the Pfizer spokesperson said that the company has developed detailed logistical plans and tools to support effective vaccine transport, storage and continuous temperature monitoring. “We have experience working with customers in all markets and have developed comprehensive solutions to partner with countries to help in the deployment of this vaccine," he added.

India is keeping a close watch on the outcome of the trials of Russia’s Sputnik and University of Oxford’s Covishield vaccine candidates, even as the early data from Pfizer’s vaccine efficacy trial spurred sentiments across the globe. The interim efficacy data of both Sputnik and Covidshield are expected within a month.

The Centre expects the Oxford vaccine to be the first off the block through its contract manufacturer, Serum Institute of India (SII). Government officials had said India may have a vaccine as early as December, and hopes are pinned on the efficacy trial being conducted by Covishield’s co-developer AstraZeneca across the world, as well as bridging studies by SII. Bridging studies are meant to showcase the fact that the vaccines produced by the Pune-based company are the same and produce similar results as the Oxford vaccine.

AstraZeneca had, as recently as 23 October, said it anticipates results from the late-stage trials later this year, depending on the rate of infection within the communities where the trials are being conducted.

“Data readouts will be submitted to regulators and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals," it said.

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