Potential Covid-19 vaccines and the ideal candidate for India
Potential Covid-19 vaccines: As various countries, India too is hinging its hopes on the potential Covid-19 vaccines to be authorized by the regulatory bodies for their use, especially as its one of the leading nations with maximum Covid-19 positive cases. However, out of the many vaccines under different levels of trials globally, for India the most realistic ones are about four vaccines.
Last two weeks have been highly optimistic with first Pfizer-BioNTech and then Moderna announcing their vaccine to show promising 90% and 95% efficacy respectively. Furthermore, The Serum Institute of India announced that the Oxford vaccine will be available for use by healthcare workers in February and to public by next year April.
Serum Institute of India, Pune is in agreement with two Covid-19 vaccine candidates – Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Novavax. Oxford vaccine has been named Covishield in India and is in the final stages of human trials. ICMR has been in association with Serum Institute and has been monitoring the vaccine trials closely for their efficacy and safety.
The Pune based institute has signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to manufacture 1 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Indian government has already ordered a procurement of 500 million doses of this vaccine.
Novavax is under phase 2 and 3 of trials and are expected to be rolled out by mid-2021. 2 billion doses of Novavax vaccine will be produced by the institute under agreement. India has ordered 1 billion doses of Novavax vaccine.
Bharat Biotech and ICMR are collaborating to manufacture indigenous Covid-19 vaccine and will be named Covaxin. This vaccine is in phase 3 of trials with 26,000 participants. The vaccine is being developed using inactive coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
Zydus Cadila commenced indigenous Covid-19 vaccine development in July. The Gujarat based pharma giant is developing the vaccine using DNA-based technique which it used to develop Hepatitis C vaccine. Third phase of trial is set to begin in December and vaccine is expected to be available later next year.
Dr. Reddy’s came in partnership to carry out trials and later produce Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, developed by Gamaleya Research Institute (GRI) and funded and promoted outside by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). Second and third phase trials are scheduled to begin next month.
Considering technological and logistics requirements for various vaccines, the best suited candidates are Covishield, Covaxin, and Novavax – the vaccines which will be distributed by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech. These vaccines require storage temperatures of 2-8 degree Celsius, same as required for Polio vaccine. India already has a strong infrastructure for storage and distribution of these vaccines. Sputnik V requires temperature of -18 C for storage. Currently, this vaccine is in process to be developed in free-dried form. This will make the vaccine possible to be stored in frozen powder form and will require liquid to be mixed before injecting.
Moderna vaccine is not ideal for India due to its maximum storage period as just 30 days. Keeping transportation system in mind, delivering the vaccine to remote areas will be challenging with this vaccine. Furthermore, both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require ultra-low temperatures of -70C, which is difficult to maintain.
India’s ideal Covid-19 vaccine options thus remain the ones that are under trial in India and also manufacturing.