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Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield set to get approved in India today: Report

Covishield is Serum Institute’s version of the vaccine being developed by Oxford University and British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc.
Covishield is Serum Institute’s version of the vaccine being developed by Oxford University and British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc.

  • The British laboratory announced in interim findings in November that its vaccine was on average 70% effective
  • Cheaper and easier to distribute than rival vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is by far the most significant vaccine against coronavirus

India's drug regulator is set to approve on Friday a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, for emergency use, according to news agency Reuters reported. The expert committee set up by Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) V.G. Somani to vet vaccine proposals, met for the second time this week, recommended emergency approval for Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. British-Swedish drugmaker inked an agreement with Serum Institute of India to produce 1 billion doses of its experimental vaccine for lower-and-middle income countries.

Dubbed as Covishield in India, the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine showed an average efficacy of 70.4%, with no hospitalisations or severe disease, according to the data. Serum Institute sought emergency use licence for a version of the British drugmaker’s vaccine in India last month. The expert committee earlier asked it to submit updated data after the United Kingdom regulator had given its approval to AstraZeneca’s original version.

Britain last week approved the emergency authorisation of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in the country. The authorisation is for two full doses administered with an interval of between four and 12 weeks, AstraZeneca said.

The vaccine is "virus-vectored", which means it is a version of a virus that normally infects chimpanzees and has been modified with a portion of the COVID-19 called the "spike protein" to fire the immune system. Once in human cells, the vaccine should help stimulate the production of antibodies that recognize the virus.

Cheaper and easier to distribute than rival vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is by far the most significant in the global fight against the novel coronavirus. Unlike the two messenger RNA vaccines by US firms Pfizer and Moderna, this vaccine could be kept at normal refrigerator temperatures of between two and eight degrees Celsius. The Moderna vaccine needs to be stored at -20C, while the Pfizer/BioNTech product must be kept at -70C. It will be priced as little as $3 per dose.

Researchers claimed the vaccine protected against disease in 62% of those given two full doses and in 90% of those initially given a half dose.

The world's biggest producer of vaccines, has already stockpiled about 50 million doses, enough for 25 million people. India will be the first priority for the delivery of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer, Serum Institute of India, earlier mentioned. "The COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed initially in India, then we will look at the COVAX countries which are mainly in Africa. Our priority is India & COVAX countries," Poonawalla said.

India's Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) could also approve a vaccine locally developed by Bharat Biotech, Reuters reported. The Drugs Controller General of India will take the final decision on emergency approval of coronavirus vaccine in India based on expert committee's recommendations.

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