India could have a Covid-19 vaccine by Dec: Poonawalla

Adar Poonawalla believes India could have a Covid-19 vaccine by December

He stressed that even when the vaccine is declared safe, it will be the decision of the health ministry fo India to enforce distribution

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The potential coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) could be ready as early as December and the first batch of 100 million doses per month can be made available by the second or third quarter of 2021, Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer of SII told NDTV in an interview.

However it would take up a few months for the vaccine rollout after the government sanctions it and at least two months for it to have a widespread reach.

"If we don't go for an emergency license, our trials should be over by December and then we can maybe we can launch in India in January," Poonawalla said.

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He added that after the UK unveils the vaccine data and shares it with the world, deeming the vaccine safe, the government of India can take a decision on emergency authorisation.

Stressing that even when the vaccine is declared safe, it will be the decision of the health ministry and regulator in India to enforce distribution, and review the vaccine if emergency licence is applied for,  Poonawalla said, "That review (for an emergency licence) could take about two-three weeks I imagine and then you can have a vaccine by December but all these would have to happen and I don't want to venture a guess whether that would happen or not happen because it's not my place to do so -- that's for the health ministry officials to decide.

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"We are aiming for 100 million doses a month at first. This should be available by Q2-Q3 of 2021."

Earlier in September, SII announced that it will partner with Gavi and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to manufacture an additional up to 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for India and low and middle-income countries (LMICs). SII has signed an agreement to manufacture the potential vaccine developed by Jenner Institute of Oxford University in collaboration with British-Swedish pharma company AstraZeneca.

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Meanwhile, India's Covid-19 caseload surpassed the 80-lakh mark on Thursday, 18 days after it had gone past 70 lakh, with 49,881 new cases. The recoveries surged to 73.15 lakh pushing the national recovery rate to 90.99 per cent.

(With agency inputs)