Serum Institute of India has already produced around 50 million dosses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine 'Covidshield' and plans to increase production to 100 million by March next year even as it awaits approval for emergency use authorisation, a top company official said on Monday.
Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, is collaborating with Oxford University and AstraZeneca to manufacture Covidshield.
The Pune-based company has applied to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) seeking emergency use authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine in the country.
“We have already manufactured 40-50 million dosages of the vaccine. The rollout of the vaccine is expected to be a bit slow in the initial phase due to logistics issue and is expected to pick up once things get sorted,” SII CEO Adar Poonawalla told reporters.
He noted that the company plans to ramp up vaccine production to 100 million dosages per month by March next year.
Poonawalla further said the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could be approved in the UK soon. By next month, the vaccine can also be approved in India, he added.
Poonawalla said India would get the majority of vaccines produced next year with some part of the production also going to other markets as part of COVAX --a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.
“Some shortage can be expected in the first six months. Things will ease out by August-September as other manufacturers will also start supplies,” he added.
He noted that DCGI is examining the vaccine data submitted by various companies in detail and the approvals are expected to come in the next few days.
Union Minister Harsh Vardhan, who formally launched the company's pneumococcal vaccine, said everybody in the country is looking forward to the regulatory approvals for the Covid-19 vaccine in the next few days. “We are all awaiting the approvals. We know that SII has developed capacities which can cater to India as well as many other countries through various global associations,” Vardhan said.
On the new strain of coronavirus, the minister said the government laboratories had already initiated the genome sequencing work few months ago. “We asked the laboratories what new is coming out in the tests...the country has the capability to fight any virus or disease,” he noted.
Besides SII, Bharat Biotech and Pfizer have also applied to DCGI seeking emergency use authorisation for their Covid-19 vaccines earlier this month.
When asked about SII's progress on its own Covid-19 vaccine, Poonawalla said, “We expect it to launch in January 2022. We have already initiated Phase 1 clinical trials in the UK.”