‘Delighted’ at Oxford vaccine results, Covishield is low-cost and feasible: Poonawalla

Vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, says Serum Institute CEO

64-Adar-C-Poonawalla Adar C. Poonawalla

Responding to the promising results from Oxford University’s vaccine trials Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said he was delighted that the “soon to be widely available”, “low-cost” and logistically manageable” ChAdOx1 nCoV-2019 vaccine dubbed ‘Covishield’ could offer protection of up to 90 per cent in one dosage regime.

“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. Further details on this, will be provided this evening,” Poonawalla tweeted on Monday.

According to Oxford, which is trialling the vaccine in collaboration with AstraZeneca, Phase 3 interim analysis including 131 COVID-19 cases indicated that the vaccine was “70.4 per cent effective when combining data from two dosing regimens.”

While one regiment was just 62 per cent effective when full doses were administered, another saw effectiveness reach up to 90 per cent when the regimen was a half dose followed by a full dose.

Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, said, “These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90 per cent effective and if this dosing regimen is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply. Today’s announcement is only possible thanks to the many volunteers in our trial, and the hard working and talented team of researchers based around the world.”

Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said, “The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by SARS-CoV-2. We will continue to work to provide the detailed information to regulators. It has been a privilege to be part of this multi-national effort which will reap benefits for the whole world.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also hailed the news, tweeting “Incredibly exciting news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials. There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results.”

While India is in talks with Moderna and Pfizer for their vaccines, the Oxford candidate is the most likely to be deployed in the Indian context due to Serum Institute’s domestic capacity and the vaccine’s feasible temperature requirements: While the Moderna vaccines require temperature below 20 degrees celsius, Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be kept below 80-degree celsius.

However, compared to Oxford's results, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both reported effectiveness of 90 per cent or above in their trials. 

Serum Institute has already produced 40 million doses of the vaccine in India under the at-risk manufacturing and stockpiling license from DCGI, the Indian Council of Medical Research said recently.

SII is also partnered to produce Novovax's candidate, which entered Phase-III efficacy trials in September.

A slew of good news has emerged of late, over 11 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. From Moderna to Pfizer, Sputnik V to Sinopharm, multiple COVID-19 vaccines have been touted with promising results from their trials.

In addition, a large-scale study by Oxford University, Oxford University Hospitals and the NHS Foundation Trust found that immunity gained from a COVID-19 infection can last for at least six months—hopeful tidings for the nearly 60 million who have been infected worldwide.

While India remains the second most-infected country in the world by absolute number of cases, the number of new daily cases has remained below the 50,000 mark for 16days now. According to the Health Ministry, "In the last 24 hours, 44,059 persons were found infected with COVID. India has been registering less than 50,000 cases for the last 16 days, since 8th November. This assumes significance as several countries of the Western Hemisphere are witnessing a huge surge of new cases at the onset of winter."

However, a recent surge in cases in Gujarat and Delhi has prompted fears of a second wave, with Mahaqrashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray warning on Sunday that this could hit like a “tsunami”.