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NEW DELHI : Serum Institute of India (SII) is developing a covid-19 vaccine booster shot that will be effective against variants, including Omicron, and will introduce the Novavax jab for children in six months, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Pune-based company, said.

“On the back of enough data, it is safe to say that booster vaccines are a proven strategy to get antibodies up to a great extent," Poonawalla told a CII Partnership Summit 2021 on Tuesday, organized in association with the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT).

“With over a billion-dollar investment that has gone into developing and manufacturing the covid-19 vaccine, the journey so far has given us several key lessons owing to the rapidly changing situation in accordance with the mutating virus."

Poonawalla said globally, the supply of vaccines outpaced demand. But to keep the momentum going, countries need to come together and prepare standard rules for clinical trials and manufacturing of the vaccines. Multilateral agencies should be able to identify and isolate new mutations and find out the efficacy of vaccines in a time-bound manner.

“Joining the two other companies that are working towards developing the vaccine for children, SII has reached the trial phase of the vaccine for the children aged above three and should be ready within the next six months," he said.

Poonawalla said global harmonization of regulatory procedures is critical in the manufacturing of vaccines and the ease of procuring vaccines and certificates to minimize vaccine inequality. He said it is necessary to work with the government in simplifying policies and regulations.

“Globally, there is good research in vaccines, but when it comes to taking the product through clinical development to distribution, the right kind of collaboration becomes necessary. The first issue that we are now grappling with in a significant way is improving access to vaccines," Poonawalla said.

Poonawalla’s comments come amid increasing concern that countries in Africa cannot access enough vaccines.

“As an industry, the vaccine segment is quite small, but volume-wise we are significantly high. We have a turnover of a billion dollars, and the next closest company is in the US, with a turnover of $50 billion. Therefore, if we want value creation and innovation to happen in India, we need to be able to build that kind of income here. Unless that happens, investment in research and development will become very difficult," he said.

Talking about the government’s role in tackling the challenges posed by the pandemic in the last two years, he stated that the government and industry should work even more closely to improve the business environment further and simplify the rules and regulations for manufacturers to expand the sector.

SII makes Covishield, which was developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and is a major vaccine in India’s nationwide covid-19 vaccination programme.

Last month, Indonesia became the first country to clear the use of a covid-19 vaccine developed by Novavax Inc. The company expects more countries to authorize the use of the vaccine. SII manufactures the Novavax vaccines under the Covovax brand.

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