2021 Looks a Lot More Hopeful: Oxford Vaccine is Up To 90% Effective. What Does This Mean for India?


2021 Looks a Lot More Hopeful: Oxford Vaccine is Up To 90% Effective. What Does This Mean for India?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The vaccine race is heating up. After announcements from Pfizer and Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca on Monday announced that its vaccine could be up to 90 per cent effective without any serious side effects.

“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against Covid-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” Pascal Soriot, Astra’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The vaccine was 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose at least one month apart, according to data from late stage trials in Brazil and Britain. Another dosing regimen showed 62 per cent efficacy when given as two two full doses at least one month apart, and the combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70 per cent.

What does this positive development mean for India?

The news is a shot in the arm for India, as it is counting on the low-cost Oxford vaccine to inoculate a majority of its population. The candidate is being manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India, which is planning to deliver the first 100 million doses to healthcare workers and the elderly by January next year.

In India, the price of the vaccine is capped at ₹1,000 for two necessary doses. An added advantage is that it can be stored at fridge temperatures (2 to 8 degree celsius) which solves a lot of storage and logistical issues in the developing world.

CEO of The Serum Institute of India, Adar Poonawala expressed his delight at the development. “I am delighted to hear that, Covishield, a low-cost, logistically manageable & soon to be widely available, #COVID19 vaccine will offer protection up to 90% in one type of dosage regime and 62% in the other dosage regime,” he tweeted.

The government will make bulk purchases, and India is likely to get its first batch of shots as early as January-February next year. India first plans to allow frontline workers like doctors, nurses and municipal staff to get the vaccine. It would only be possible once Serum Institute of India gets emergency use approval for the vaccine candidate soon after it gets one from the United Kingdom.

The SII has almost completed its phase 3 trials in India and a follow-up of the data is likely to start soon. “If Serum Institute submits its efficacy data from the UK and applies for emergency authorisation here, it can easily be granted,” indicating that by February-March, more than one vaccine is likely to get at least emergency use authorisation.

The year 2021 is suddenly starting to look a lot more hopeful. All we need to do is get through this last phase getting the basics right – wear masks, socially distance, and sanitise.