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SII to dispatch Covishield to multiple countries by month-end

PUNE The city-based Serum Institute of India (SII), largest vaccine manufacturer, has provided 11 million Covishield doses to the central government
By Steffy Thevar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 09:44 PM IST

PUNE The city-based Serum Institute of India (SII), largest vaccine manufacturer, has provided 11 million Covishield doses to the central government. These doses are being administered to healthcare staff and frontline workers in the first phase of the inoculation drive being carried out across the country.

Dr Suresh Jadhav, executive director, SII, speaks to Steffy Thevar on how they delivered the vaccine in the shortest possible time and about the plan to deliver it to other countries.

Is there any communication on further purchase order from the Centre or any requests from other states in India?

Currently, we have 90 million doses stocked at our facility ready for dispatch. We have a purchase order for about nine million doses from Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) for India which would be dispatched in the next couple of days. The demands made by other countries would not hamper the demand supply for the Indian market.

SII would be exporting Covishield to Brazil. Which other countries are likely to get the vaccine and how much?

The work on export of vaccine to Brazil will begin likely by month-end and about two million doses is likely to be sent. Currently, the stock is at our cold chain storage which would be sent once things are finalized. Some of the other countries which would also get the vaccine include mostly neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka and also Morocco. Depending on the demand we will be sending about 0.5 million to five million doses to each of these countries. The exports would begin by the end of this month.

What has been the costing strategy for Covishield, which is still one of the cheapest Covid vaccines in the world?

The costing strategy for any vaccine or for any product in that matter is if there is more requirement then the cost is brought down. In our case we could supply the vaccine in the shortest possible time as the infrastructure was ready. We had the laboratory ready as our expansion plan of other products was underway. Due to Covid-19 the other products got delayed and we could use the available infrastructure for the mass production of Covishield.

Multiple mutations regarding the Sars-Cov-2 have been reported in recent days will the vaccine be effective against these mutations

We can safely say that Covishield is effective against the currently reported mutations. Be it the mutations reported from the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa and even India, our study has found that the vaccine would work as effectively against the virus as it did for the previous strain. This is corroborated by multiple international laboratories too. As of now we can say that the current reported mutations will not alter the efficacy of the vaccine, but for future mutations we cannot say for sure.

What special arrangements were made during the past ten months to prioritise vaccine mass production?

Our staff was working in full strength in three shifts whenever needed. The government also approved working permission for us since we manufacture life saving drugs. In the given circumstance the Drug Comptroller of India permitted us to manufacture the vaccine even before it could be made available for marketing. This was something unusual as it does not exist in the Indian laws. We got special permission as per the situation, but this was not the first time that vaccines have been manufactured in such a large quantity within a short time. Such emergency decisions were taken during H1N1 and Ebola where vaccines were administered to people from affected areas within months.

Some are hesitant to take the vaccine and there are few cases of minor adverse effects. Your comments.

Minor adverse effects are natural. We already have had about 60 per cent people who have come forward to take the vaccine which is a good percentage. People would always be hesitant towards any new vaccine or injection at the first time, however, under clinical trials thousands of people across the globe have already been administered with the vaccine. India is a prime example of how vaccines helped eradicate diseases from the world. For example in case of smallpox, India reported the last case in 1970 and by 1979, World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the eradication of smallpox from the world. Also, in 2011 Indian reported the last case of wild polio and just a few years before that we were reporting the highest number of polio cases in the world. With successful vaccination drives, India can lead the world in eradicating another virus which will need people’s support.

Apart from Covishield, which other vaccine candidates is SII manufacturing currently?

We are also manufacturing Covovax, full length recombinant Sars-Cov-2 glycoprotein nanoparticle vaccine adjuvant with Matrix M from Novavax Inc, COVIVAXX, RBD VLP display vaccine from SpyBiotech, SII Covac measles viral vector based technology from University of Pittsburgh and COVI-VAC, Live Attenuated Vaccine (Codon de-optimized) from Codagenix.

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