'Need more data on AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial'

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial data only 56 days old, need further monitoring: Sudhakar

Sudhakar said the vaccine will tentatively be available in Karnataka by 2021 but it was difficult to pinpoint the month

Karnataka Health and Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar. Credit: DH Photo

After reports that UK's National Health Service was preparing for an initial rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc from the week "commencing November 2", Karnataka Health and Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar said that it was difficult to pinpoint the month in which it will be available in Karnataka. He, however, added that it will tentatively be available in 2021.

After a detailed presentation on the research status of the vaccine by AstraZeneca Pharma India Limited Managing Director Gagan Singh, responsible for overall commercial operations in India, Sudhakar told reporters here on Tuesday that neutralising antibodies were found in trial volunteers administered with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, but that data was available only for 56 days. 

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"Across India, 1,600 trial volunteers are being administered with the vaccine including at JSS Medical College, Mysuru, and in the past 56 days that they were monitored after being administered with the vaccine, neutralising antibodies were found. But it is difficult to say how long this will last as they have to be monitored longer, perhaps for six months," Sudhakar said. 

While phase 1 of the trial has been completed, phase 2 and 3 of the trials are underway, he said. "Children in the age group of 5 to 12 years, adults in the age group of 18 to 55 years, and elderly above the age of 55 will be administered the vaccine as part of the trial. Currently, it is being studied how the vaccine acts in Covid-19 positive patients, the elderly and the children. This also includes those with comorbidities. Neutralising antibodies have been found within 22 days of administering the vaccine," he said. 

The Karnataka government has also approached Hyderabad-based Covaxin maker Dr Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Biotech International Limited. "We have contacted him and will meet soon. A discussion regarding his vaccine will be held soon," Sudhakar said. 

Also read — Covid-19 cases dipping, situation under control in Karnataka: Sudhakar

No profit-no loss

Sudhakar also informed reporters here that AstraZeneca will be deriving no profits from developing the vaccine. "The company has informed us that they will be operating on a no profit-no loss basis. They will only be recovering their operational costs," Sudhakar said.

Vaccine distribution channel

Currently, the vaccine distribution network in the state as in the rest of the country is only equipped for immunisation of children, pregnant and lactating mothers. "A technical committee comprising epidemiologists, technical partners, and logistics partners will be formed by early next week and we will roll out a plan on how we will distribute vaccines," he said. To a question whether vaccines will be made compulsory, he said, "That will depend on advisories (from the central government)."