UK Approval of Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Positive News, Waiting for India's Approval: SII's Adar Poonawalla
A test tube labeled with the vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)
New Delhi: Serum Institute of India (SII) on Thursday termed the approval for Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in the UK as encouraging news and said that the company would now wait for the final nod for the medication in India. Earlier in the day, the UK approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by scientists at Oxford University and produced by AstraZeneca for human use, the second coronavirus vaccine to be cleared for rollout in Britain after the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs.
The Oxford vaccine, which also has a tie-up with the SII, was being evaluated by the British regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – after the final cut of data was submitted by the government last week. "This is great and encouraging news. We will wait for the final approval from Indian regulators," SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said in a statement.
In order to introduce an urgently needed vaccine against COVID-19 in India, SII, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, has entered into a collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine. The Pune-based company has applied to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) seeking emergency use authorisation for COVID-19 vaccine in the country.
The company has already stockpiled around 50 million dosages of the vaccine and aims to produce up to 100 million dosages per month by March next year. Besides SII, Bharat Biotech and Pfizer have also applied to the DCGI seeking emergency use authorisation for their COVID-19 vaccines.
The approval for the vaccine by the MHRA means the vaccine is both "safe and effective" and the government's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the National Health Service (NHS) will prioritise giving the first of the two-dose vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups quickly. The vaccine, codenamed AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, was developed at Oxford University with support from the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford jab, with 40 million expected to be available by the end of March. ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is made from a virus (ChAdOx1), which is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees, that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to replicate in humans.
Once inside a human cell, the genetic instructions for the spike protein need to be "photocopied" many times, a process known as "transcription". Once the spike protein is made, the immune system will react to it and this pre-trains the immune system to identify a real COVID-19 infection. So, when the person vaccinated is confronted with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, their immune system is pre-trained and ready to attack it.