An expert panel, on Friday, approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for restricted emergency use in India. The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) imposed certain regulatory provisions, including that the shot is indicated for active immunization in individuals of 18-years or more to prevent the disease, and that it should be administered intramuscularly in two doses at an interval of four to six weeks.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) is making the vaccine Covishield developed by Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca, while Bharat Biotech has partnered with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for its Covaxin. Reports state that thh Serum Institute and the government are yet to sign any purchase agreement of the vaccine.
Adar Poonawalla, SII chief executive, said the company has made some 50 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, and plans to roll out at least a 100 million shots by March. AstraZeneca has signed an agreement with SII to produce one billion doses of its experimental vaccine for low and middle-income countries. The Pune-based company has sought an emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine, which recently received approval from British regulators.
According to Reuters, India wants to start administering the vaccine soon, most likely by Wednesday. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is regarded as a game changer for global immunization as its cheaper and easier to distribute. The UK has also approved this vaccine for use, and as such, has ordered 100 million doses to vaccine about 50 million people. Compared to Pfizer-BioNTech, the Oxford vaccine is easier to store and distribute, as it can be kept at normal fridge temperature.
A medical journal Lancet highlighted that the AstraZeneca vaccine as “virus-vectored”, which means that 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.