Covishield: India’s first COVID-19 vaccine; All you need to know about

Covishield: India’s first COVID-19 vaccine; All you need to know about

A strong effectiveness of up to 90% for the jointly-developed COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222 has been reported by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

The declaration clears the way for the British company and its Indian contract manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, to go to the drug regulators in their own countries for an emergency license.

The vaccine will be introduced under the brand ‘Covishield’ in India, and other low- and middle-income nations by the Serum Institute of India.

♦ More Insight into the AZD1222

  • Two different dosing treatments were tried by Oxford and AstraZeneca. One treatment gave an effectiveness of 90% when AZD1222 was administered as a half dose followed by a full dose a month later.
  • The second treatment displayed 62% effectiveness when two full doses were given at an interval of a month. The average effectiveness was 70%.

♦What is ahead for the vaccine?

  • The outcomes of the trials allow AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India to go to the drug regulators for an emergency license, even the experiments continue and scientists search for a clarification on why the lower dosage works better.
  • However, it is yet to be answered that for how much time the immunity would last after the vaccine is administered.

Side-effects of this vaccine

  • According to AstraZeneca, no serious side-effects associated with the vaccine have been confirmed.
  • The most common side-effects observed are momentary injection site pain and tenderness, mild-to-moderate headache, feverishness, chills, fatigue, malaise, and muscle ache.
  • These happened less often after a second dose and more frequently after the first dose, and can be cured with paracetamol and painkillers if required.

♦ Why the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is ahead in the race than the other vaccines for India?

  • In brief, the AZD1222 vaccine is being developed using a 50-year old platform (a chimpanzee adenovirus vector-based antigen) that has been used in clinical trials for other vaccines.
  • While, Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are using the mRNA platform, a new technology with no approved vaccine before.
  • Also, the storage condition is 2-8 degrees Celsius. India has adequate competence to stock, supply and distribute the vaccine at this range of temperature compared to Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, which would need deep freezers at -70 degrees Celsius and -20 degrees Celsius respectively.

Pricing of the vaccine

  • COVAX facility—a WHO-backed facility created to guarantee unbiased worldwide access to covid-19 vaccinesat $3 per dose, or around ₹220, made a deal with SERUM INSTITUTE OF INDIA to provide 200 million doses to it.
  • The vaccine will be provided to the Indian government at a comparable rate by the SERUM INSTITUTE OF INDIA.
  • It is not clear so far whether the private hospitals will be permitted. If permitted, the vaccine’s price will be ₹500-600 / dose.

♦When will the mass immunization drive start in India?

  • Serum Institute of India will produce 1 billion doses, but not all of this capacity will be for Indians. SII’s CEO, Adar Poonawalla, has committed to reserve half of the doses for use in India.
  • The vaccine might be launched in January under the ‘Covishield’ brand.
  • However, according to the CEO, due to the challenges of supply and inadequate production, the mass vaccination drive in India could go up to 2024.

 Who will be the first in line?

The government has prepared a priority group list.

  • Healthcare workers, including doctors, paramedics, and nurses, will be the 1st to get the vaccine.
  • After that frontline workers such as essential service providers will get the vaccine.
  • After that in line are groups at the maximum risk of mortality, like the elderly and those with co-morbidities.

CEO of Serum Institute of India expects that after March or April 2021 only, the rest of the population will be vaccinated.

♦About other vaccines:

After January, there are 3 vaccines likely to be launched:

  • Bharat Biotech, whose inactivated virus vaccine is at present in phase 3 trials, is anticipated to be the 2nd vaccine to be launched, by March/ April.
  • Zydus Cadila is also expected to launch its three-dose DNA plasmid vaccine.
  • Russia’s Sputnik V, based on the human adenovirus platform, is expected around April 2021.

♦From all these vaccines’ launch, can we say that COVID-19 can be defeated?

  • Honestly, we don’t tell so far. Despite the fact that there are many uncertainties, the initial signs are positive.
  • It’s a great accomplishment to grow a vaccine so fast.
  • Now, a lot will depend on vaccine distribution, and what we observe from the initial recipients.

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