The high prevalence of COVID-19 infections in Mumbai and Pune will help test the efficacy of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, its local manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII) has said.
By end of August, between 4,000 to 5,000 people in Pune and Mumbai will be injected with the vaccine as part of trials that are scheduled to last over two months, SII said.
Oxford University has reported satisfactory progress from the vaccines test results and is conducting bigger field tests in the UK. In India, it has chosen SII as manufacturing partner, which has to conduct field trials before getting the final nod to ensure they are safe and effective for Indians.
While Pune district has over 59,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, Mumbai has 1.03 lakh such cases. Both the cities account for almost half the positive cases in Maharashtra and over a 10th of the cases in India.
There are a number of trial sites across both Mumbai and Pune that we have shortlisted, as these cities have many
hotspots, which will help us understand the efficacy of the vaccine, the company's chief executive Adar Poonawalla told PTI in an email interview.
He said the company aims to commence the crucial phase-3 of the trials of the vaccine christened as Covishield in India by August after getting the necessary permissions from the Drug Controller General of India.
"The Indian regulatory authorities have aided us in fast-tracking approvals keeping in mind the requisite guidelines of safety and efficacy," Poonawalla said.
We do not want to rush and would focus only on delivering a viable and effective productfor the masses, he said. His father and company chairman Cyrus Poonawalla had on Tuesday said SII is aiming to sell the vaccine for under Rs 1,000 per dose in India.
Adar Poonawalla said the company aims to manufacture 300 million to 400 million doses by the year-end, following the success of initial and licensure trials. He said as part of the agreement with AstraZeneca, SII can manufacture 1 billion doses for India and nearly 70 low and middle income countries.
There are no challenges in the manufacturing of the vaccine doses and the company will be starting by making 60-70 million doses per day, he said.
He had earlier explained that the COVID-19 vaccine project is a USD 200 million bet, wherein it is investing in production even as the vaccine goes through the trials process, so as to ensure that it can introduce a large volume of the vaccines in the market as soon as the license is received. However, if this candidate fails, the company will lose the money.
"Our facility is well-equipped with state-of-the-art technology to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine. We plan to start production post regulatory approvals, Poonawala said.