Home / News / India /  Pfizer vaccine lifts sentiment but Oxford, Sputnik efficacy data key for India

NEW DELHI: While early data from Pfizer's covid-19 vaccine efficacy trial spurred sentiment across the world, for India, the candidates that matter in the near term are Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and University of Oxford’s Covishield, whose interim efficacy data is expected over the next one month.

Pfizer does not have a deal with any company for distribution in India as of now. Also, the storage temperature for the vaccine is -80°C, facilities for which are not available in India. Additionally, Pfizer doesn't have a deal with Covax, the covid-19 vaccine access initiative of Gavi as well as WHO. Emailed queries sent to Pfizer were not answered at the time of publishing.

The Indian government expects the Oxford vaccine to be the first off the block in the country through its contract manufacturer, Serum Institute of India.

Government officials have earlier said that India could have a vaccine as early as next month, 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 Serum Institute.

The bridging studies are meant to showcase that the vaccines being produced by the Pune based firm are the same and produce similar results as the Oxford vaccine.

Astrazeneca has, 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 clinical trials are being conducted.

“Data readouts will be submitted to regulators and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Rolling reviews of the vaccine programme have already begun in countries where this regulatory pathway has been established, providing regulators access to data as soon as they become available," UK-based Astrazeneca had said.

Phase 3 trials study the efficacy of a vaccine—how effective it is in preventing infection among those inoculated as compared to those that were given placebo. To determine how effective a vaccine is, the trials measure what proportion of patients of each arm of the trial have been infected and analyse the two data sets.

For the Sputnik V, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd is the marketing company for the vaccine through its pact with co-developer Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). RDIF chief executive officer Kirill Dmitriev on Monday said that it also plans to release interim data from its efficacy trials of Sputnik V vaccine in its home country later this month.

However, the vaccine is likely to be available in India only around March or later as Dr Reddy’s bridging studies of about 1,500 participants will be available by then, according to the Hyderabad-based company’s management.

Two indigenous vaccines, from Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila, will be available by June.

Even after a vaccine is out, logistics will be an issue. The Centre has roughly 28,000 refrigeration units and about 700 refrigerated trucks to transport the doses. But considering the unprecedented volume of doses of covid-19 vaccine, the government is trying to ramp up its cold chain inventory as well as take state and private operators’ help for the task.

In terms of doctors and nurses, the government along with the private sector is expected to have enough manpower to conduct inoculations. In a year, the government provides around 400 million doses of vaccines through its Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).

Last week, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that the government will be using the UIP infrastructure for covid-19 vaccinations as well.

Additionally, private hospitals are also training their doctors and nurses, and India’s largest healthcare chain Apollo Hospital Enterprises last month said it is gearing up to provide up to 1 million doses of covid-19 vaccines per day through its network of 70 hospitals as well as clinics, corporate health centres and pharmacies.

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