Serum Institute of India Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla on Monday announced that his firm has applied for emergency use authorisation of its coronavirus vaccine candidate.
Poonawalla said that the move will help save numerous lives in the country. “As promised, before the end of 2020, Serum Institute has applied for emergency use authorisation for the first made-in-India vaccine, Covishield,” he tweeted. “I thank the Government of India and Sri Narendra Modi ji for their invaluable support.”
The Serum Institute has tied up with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University to produce a vaccine in India. The vaccine has been as one of the prime candidates in the race for a drug against Covid-19.
Serum Institute’s vaccine candidate ran into a controversy last week after a volunteer from Chennai said he faced “severe adverse effects” due to the trials. The Union health ministry dispelled doubts about the vaccine and said there was no need to stop the trials.
American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has also sought emergency approval for its vaccine in India, according to reports. Experts have, however, raised concerns on whether the existing infrastructure in India would be able to handle the storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine which needs to be kept at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit) or below.
Pfizer told NDTV on Sunday that it had made detailed plans to monitor the vaccine’s temperature, transport and storage. The firm said it was considering several storage options from temperature-controlled thermal shippers to the refrigeration facilities in hospitals.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said at an all-party meeting last week that experts believe a coronavirus vaccine could be available in India in the next few weeks. The health ministry had said at the meeting that the vaccine will be first given to about one crore health workers from both the public and private sectors, and then to about two crore front-line workers, according to PTI.
Serum Institute’s CEO had had said on November 28 that the Centre was likely to buy 300-400 million [30 to 40 crore] doses of its vaccine by July 2021, even though it did not give anything in writing.
India has not signed a deal for a coronavirus vaccine yet so it is unclear when it will be available for use in the country. Availability of the vaccine in India will be subject to approval by domestic regulators, and the Indian government agreeing to purchase them.
India’s coronavirus count rose to 96,77,203 on Monday as it reported 32,981 new cases in 24 hours. The country’s toll rose to 1,40,573 with 391 more deaths. More than 91 lakh people have recovered from the disease so far.