Indian trials running smoothly

Interview/Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India


What are the challenges you encountered as a vaccine maker?

The vaccine manufacturing industry is extremely intricate and a vital part of the global health industry. So far, it has been enriching in terms of acquiring knowledge, technology, driving innovation in expansion and production and being able to provide affordable vaccines to save millions of lives. At the same time, it has its own share of challenges. [These include] struggling to receive permission to develop a new product, conducting trials, buying the latest technology, registering our products globally, amplifying our global outreach and competing against big pharma companies who have been ruling the global markets. Furthermore, internally, one of the most critical challenges has been to build a robust infrastructure that provides a seamless management of these operations. However, at Serum, we are constantly working towards optimising our facilities, technologies and resources to help quicken and smoothen the development as well as distribution processes for the vaccines.

How soon can we expect the vaccine?

It is a bit early to comment on when we can expect a safe and viable vaccine. The UK trials are on the verge of completion, and our Indian trials are also running smoothly. Based on the trial’s success in India and the UK, and if approvals from regulatory bodies are in place in time, then we can expect the vaccine to be available in India by January 2021.

Does Covishield provide long-lasting protection? For how long would we need Covid-19 vaccines?

Presently, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is one of the few vaccines which is showing promising results in the ongoing trials and has been cleared for the final phase. We have a long-standing relationship with the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford for our various other vaccine initiatives and are hopeful that it will be an efficacious and immunogenic vaccine, viable for mass use.

While a full-coverage immunisation will certainly aid in containing the spread of the virus, it is impossible to ascertain when the disease will stop to exist. It is an ongoing fight and we must maintain our focus toward strengthening our health care system that helps to mitigate unprecedented situations.