MUMBAI (Reuters) – Head of Indian company hired to manufacture AstraZeneca Plc AZN.L The COVID vaccine said it could deliver it to healthcare workers and elderly Indians by January, as the number of cases of infections in the country crossed nine million on Friday.
The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has already manufactured millions of doses of the vaccine which is being developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford pending the results of advanced stage trials.
UK-based AstraZeneca has signed multiple supply and manufacturing agreements with companies and governments around the world.
Data published in the medical journal The Lancet on Thursday showed that AstraZeneca’s vaccine produced a strong immune response in older adults, with the researchers planning to publish the results of the end-stage trials by Christmas.
Pfizer Drug Manufacturers Inc PFE.N and Moderna Inc MRNA.O have also published data from advanced stage trials that show more than 90% efficacy in their vaccine candidates.
India is monitoring the progress of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but availability and supply could be an issue with a population as large as India’s, the head of a committee briefing the prime minister said this week.
Adar Poonawaala, the managing director of SII, said his company will apply for an emergency use authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as UK authorities approve it and make it available to the general public.
“It has been a Herculean task and we are very happy now that we are almost now on autopilot just waiting for the vaccine results to arrive,” Poonawaala said at a conference Thursday. “Then we can produce hundreds of millions of additional vaccines.”
The vaccine would be priced between $ 5 and $ 6 in the retail market, but the Indian government would get it for a lot less because it would buy it in bulk, Poonawaala said.
It would take at least two to three years for all of India’s 1.3 billion people to be covered, he said.
India has the second-highest number of infections in the world, after the United States, but cases have slowed since peaking in September.
It has recorded 45,882 new infections and 584 deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Friday. India has now recorded more than nine million cases of the coronavirus and 132,162 deaths.
A government-backed vaccine, developed by private company Bharat Biotech, could be launched as early as February, a government scientist told Reuters earlier this month.
Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Abhirup Roy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie