NEW DELHI: India is eyeing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate as the likely first shot against Covid-19 to be available for Indians by end of 2020, while locally developed candidates are also being watched closely as it is felt that they may also enter the market with a gap of few weeks if cleared in trials, officials said.
However, the Oxford candidate — for which Pune-based Serum Institute is a manufacturing partner of British pharma giant AstraZeneca — is ahead of the other two local vaccine candidates that have also entered the human trials stage. “If the vaccine gets the nod, and given that it is being produced in India, it makes sense to use it,” said a source.
While Serum has started advanced phases of human trial (Phase 2 and 3) in India with around 1,600 people aged above 18 years in across 17 selected sites across the country, the other two — Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, jointly developed with ICMR, and Zydus Cadila’s Zycov D are both in early phases 1 and 2.
The Serum’s trial is so far the largest for Covid-19 vaccine in the country, the other two companies have around 1,000-1,100 participants enrolled in five to eight sites.
The Oxford candidate has already completed early phases (Phase 1 and 2) of human trials in UK and showed positive results. For instance, the preliminary results showed the vaccine induces an antibody response within 28 days in the similar range to that in individuals who have recovered from Covid-19. A second “booster” dose of the vaccine increased antibody response to even higher levels, and 100% of blood samples given the second dose showed neutralising activity.
The Oxford candidate has also scored better as compared to other vaccines being developed outside India because it has an Indian company, Serum Institute, as a manufacturing and distribution partner. Besides, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with GAVI has also announced funding for manufacturing initial shots of this vaccine by Serum for India.