Obtaining and delivering a safe vaccine is a major priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a nation with the world’s largest number of infections after the U.S. While a government-backed scientific panel last week predicted that the South Asian country is past the peak of infections and may contain the spread by February, many are concerned of further spikes as a festival season commences ahead of densely populated north India’s cold and polluted winter.
Covid-Vaccine Developer in India Plans to Boost Capacity by 70%
Cadila, which also produces coronavirus
treatments such as remdesivir, is among a number of Indian companies holding vaccine trials.
While Cadila’s plasmid DNA candidate doesn’t use an infectious agent, like other vaccines, and instead introduces the DNA sequence encoding the antigen, the other tests being done are for traditional delivery methods.
The Serum Institute of India Pvt., the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, is conducting tests for the candidate developed by Oxford University. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. plans to distribute the Russian vaccine in India after conducting final-stage human trials and receiving regulatory approval.
Both Cadila and Bharat Biotech
International Ltd., the other Indian drugmaker developing its own indigenous vaccine, are currently conducting second-phase human trial stages. By the end of November, Patel expects to see data from the tests that have enrolled more than 1,000 people.
If the results are promising, Cadila will begin recruitment in December of more than 30,000 people for final-stage trials. Patel said that process will likely take two to three months and that he doesn’t expect many delays from Indian regulators.
“The regulators themselves are working faster, which is a good thing,” Patel said.
The government has also set aside about 500 billion rupees ($7 billion) to vaccinate the world’s second-most populous country, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Adar Poonawalla, the head of the Serum Institute, has predicted India would need about 800 billion rupees to procure and inoculate people across the South Asian nation. Apart from buying the treatment, industry executives and experts have also voiced concern over India’s ability to store and transport vaccines across the vast country of about 1.3 billion people.
Quick question; will the government of India have 80,000 crores available, over the next one year? Because that's what @MoHFW_INDIA needs, to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. This is the next concerning challenge we need to tackle. @PMOIndia
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) September 26, 2020
Patel declined to comment on whether he thought 500 billion rupees would suffice, but said he wasn’t worried about potential delivery and cold-chain storage bottlenecks given that vaccine supply will initially be restricted to priority areas and those at high risk.
“It should be manageable,” he said, noting that Cadila’s shots will have low cold-chain storage requirements making them easier to transport. “It’s going to be a couple of years process,” Patel said. “Once it becomes open markets, then we have to see whether it can reach every nook and cranny of every part of the country.”
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