Novavax said that the efficacy of its vaccine was 93.2 percent against Variants of Concern (VoC) and Variants of Interest (VoI), which represented 82 percent of the cases during trials
India’s vaccination drive is about to get another push as its largest vaccine manufacturer said Wednesday that it hopes to launch Novavax’s vaccine ‘Covovax’ in India by September as its trials are in an advanced stage of completion.
Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla told CNBC-TV18 that the trial of Novavax’s vaccine in India is likely to conclude by November. However, as per the latest guidelines by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), the company can still apply for licensure of the vaccine before completion of the trial on the basis of global test results.
Novavax had created flutters earlier this week as it exhibited a 90.4 percent overall efficacy in Phase 3 clinical trials. That puts it in the same bracket as two of the frontline vaccines being used in the US and European countries, the ones produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which had efficacy rates of 91.3 percent and 90 percent in Phase 3 trials, respectively.
The Novavax jab’s efficacy rate is also substantially higher than the Covishield (76 percent in US trials) and the Covaxin (81 percent) vaccines that are being used in India’s inoculation drive. The third vaccine currently cleared for use in India, the Russian-made Sputnik V, has an almost similar efficacy rate of 91.6 percent.
With the new addition in its arsenal, India would hope to bolster its mammoth vaccination drive that aims to develop immunity in government whole of its adult population by the end of 2021, although states have reportedly been struggling to meet demand.
How many Indians are vaccinated so far?
The total number of vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed the 26 crore-mark, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
The number includes 1,00,78,623 healthcare workers (HCWs) who have taken the first dose and 6999669 HCWs who have taken the second dose, 1,69,05,708 frontline workers (FLWs) who have received the first dose, 89,06,072 FLWs who have taken the second dose and 4,49,87,004 and 8,95,517 individuals in the 18-44 years of age group have received the first and second dose respectively.
Besides, 7,72,40,865 and 12193878 beneficiaries in the 45 to 60 age group have been administered the first and second dose respectively, while 6,32,64,880 and 20268,057 beneficiaries above 60 years have taken the first and second dose respectively.
This means that as of 15 June at least 15.2 percent of the population had received at least one dose of a vaccine while only 3.5 percent of India’s vast population is fully vaccinated.
Although the World Health Organisation says that the proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against to begin inducing herd immunity is not known, several countries including the UK and US are aspiring to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the population before opening up to pre-COVID levels.
How many vaccine doses does India expect?
There are currently two locally-made vaccines available, Covishield and Covaxin. There’s also a limited supply of Russian-made SputnikV vaccine.
The Government of India, in May, had said it has ordered over 160 million doses of Covishield and Covaxin combined, which was to be delivered between May and July. Additionally, Covishield manufacturer SII’s CEO Poonawalla had also said that the company will also supply additional 100 million doses to states and private hospitals directly, over the next few months.
Other than this, three million doses of Sputnik V vaccine, which was approved for use in April, will also be supplied by Russia and the vaccine is also being produced locally, with supplies expected to be available for use from July or August.
Additionally, the government has placed an order of 200 million doses of Novavax jab expected to be delivered by December.
However, not all of these doses have been delivered as promised as the vaccine manufacturers are struggling to ramp up capacity and keep up with the demand.
Reports from early May indicate that about 12.6 million doses of Covishield and 11.2 million doses of Covaxin were yet to be delivered at the time from the previous orders of 100 million and 200 million doses, respectively.
But the Centre is hopeful that the supply of Covaxin will increase to 75 million doses per month by July, as per its internal estimates. The availability of this vaccine is expected to increase further to 122 million doses by October and then to 155 million doses by December.
Novavax to bolster India’s vaccination drive
Apart from displaying an efficacy of over 90 percent, the Novavax vaccine was also found to provide 100 percent protection against moderate and severe disease in the study that involved 29,960 participants in the US and Mexico. It also had 91 percent efficacy in high-risk populations.
Novavax said that the efficacy of its vaccine was 93.2 percent against Variants of Concern (VoC) and Variants of Interest (VoI), which represented 82 percent of the cases during trials. The company added that the efficacy data was collected between end-January and end-April: when the Alpha, or B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the UK became the predominant strain in the US. It’s performance against the Delta strain is yet to be looked into.
Is Corbevax the dark horse in the race of vaccines?
Hyderabad-based Biological E has developed a vaccine candidate called Corbevax which is currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials. NITI Aayog member VK Paul has said that the vaccine candidate has shown promising data and it could potentially be the cheapest vaccine available in India when it finally launches.
Thirty crore doses of Corbevax are expected to be rolled out between August and December. Of these, at least 7.5 crore doses will be available by September, according to News18.
The vaccine is reportedly going to be the cheapest with the two shots expected to be cumulatively priced below Rs 400. In comparison, the Covishield vaccine comes at Rs 300 to Rs 400 for a single dose. The Russian Sputik V, the third vaccine that has received emergency approval for use in India, costs around Rs 1,000.
However, it is important to note here that the vaccination remains free for all citizens at government centres. Private hospitals will continue to charge beneficiaries as approved under government guidelines.
Other vaccine candidates in consideration
Apart from Corbevax, Biological E Ltd has also partnered with Canada-based Providence Therapeutics Holdings Inc, to manufacture an mRNA (messenger Ribonucleic acid) vaccine PTX-COVID19-B in India. Biological E will handle all clinical development and regulatory activities for the mRNA vaccine in India and other jurisdictions licensed by it.
It targets one billion dose production capacity in 2022. Providence will provide the necessary technology transfer for Biological E to manufacture mRNA vaccines in India, with a minimum production capacity of 600 million doses in 2022 and a target capacity of 1 billion doses.
Biological E is also bringing Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine to India. The Indian company has a deal to produce about 600 million doses of the vaccine called Janssen. Janssen has already been approved for use in the United States, the European Union, Thailand and South Africa among others.
Other than this, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech is building a nasal vaccine in collaboration with Canadian biotechnology firm Senotize. It is currently conducting the “final stages of clinical trials”. According to Bharat Biotech’s joint managing director Suchitra Ella, nasal vaccines “are most cost effective and efficient” as compared to the injectable vaccines. The efficacy figures, however, are yet to be released.
Zycov-D from India’s Zydus Cadila is expected to be rolled out soon with plans to manufacture 240 million doses in a year. ZyCoV-D is a three-dose vaccine, which is awaiting approval from the DCGI.
The Indian government is also in talks with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for vaccine supply. India will receive 200 million doses of Pfizer as aid from the US. It has also invited the company to supply vaccines on a commercial agreement.
With inputs from PTI
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