World’s largest vaccine maker Serum Institute of India (SII) is hopeful of launching Covovax by June according to SII’s CEO Adar Poonawalla. The vaccine is developed with by SII in partnership with American vaccine maker Novovax and showed an efficacy rate of 89.3% in its UK trial. The news came from Mr. Poonawalla himself when he took to Twitter earlier on Saturday and said, “Covovax trials finally begin in India; the vaccine is made through a partnership with @Novavax and @SerumInstIndi. It has been tested against African and UK variants of #COVID19 and has an overall efficacy of 89%. Hope to launch by September 2021.”

Earlier, Mr. Poonawalla had said that he and his company were hopeful that the Covovax would be released by June, 2021. “Our partnership for a COVID-19 vaccine with @Novavax has also published excellent efficacy results. We have also applied to start trials in India. Hope to launch #COVOVAX by June 2021!”, Mr. Poonawalla had tweeted.

According to reports, 4 hospitals in Pune, where SII’s manufacturing unit is located, will serve as trial sites for Covovax. These four hospitals include, Dr D.Y. Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, KEM Hospital Research Centre, Noble Hospital and Sahyadri Super Specialty Hospital. Other than these 4 hospitals Delhi’s Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research will also take part in the trial. Overall a total of 19 sites are selected for the further trials which will cover over 1,140 participants. The trials are usually conducted to study the safety of the vaccine and evaluate any AEFI (adverse event following immunization) incidents (if any).

Earlier it was reported that Covovax had an efficacy of 96% against the original COVID-19 strains. This is the highest efficacy any vaccine has reported for the original COVID-19 variant. When the vaccine was tested against the mutant strain that originated from UK, the vaccine’s efficacy was reported to be 86.3%.

However, in another trial conducted in South Africa, where another mutant variant was reported earlier this year, the efficacy plummeted to only 48.6%. This puts the overall average of the Covovax vaccine at 89.7%. Although the vaccine showed a drastically low efficacy against the mutated strain from South Africa, it had shown better results when compared to Covishield, developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford.

Earlier in march it was reported that Mr. Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India would be manufacturing 40-50 million Novavax vaccine doses per month from April. The Covovax is Serum Institute’s 2nd COVID-19 vaccine whose trials started earlier this year after DCGI cleared another Serum Institute’s Vaccine called Covishield that’s been developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Also read: “Please be patient”: Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla urges other countries awaiting vaccine

Meanwhile, India has so far administered 5,81,09,773 vaccine doses as of Saturday. This includes doses from both DCGI approved Covishield (made by India’s Bharat Biotech in association with Indian Council of Medical Research. Recently the Centre announced that any person above 45 years of age will be eligible for vaccination. Prior to this only people above the age of 45 years with comorbidities were allowed to register themselves for vaccination.

On Friday this week, India told overseas vaccine buyers that it will be prioritizing the needs of local vaccination drives first due to the rising COVID-19 cases. “In the coming weeks and months, obviously there will be a demand spike and obviously people are preparing for it. In many cases, we have told our international partners that COVID rates are going up in India, we are expanding our own vaccination ambit, so we are sure you will understand that at this time we have to purpose it much more focused at where we are,” Mr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs, was quoted by Reuters.


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