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Applying for emergency use license for vaccine in 2 weeks, says Serum Institute

India’s battle with coronavirus is going to witness a new sea of events as the Serum Institute is due to apply to the government for the emergency use of the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate in 2 weeks, said the company’s chief, Adar Poonawalla in a statement on Saturday.

Post his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the drugmaker who is developing the vaccine with the partnership of the University of Oxford, spoke about the license application that the company aims to apply for within 2 weeks.

Speaking to the media, Mr. Poonawalla said, “As of now, we don’t have anything in writing with the government of India on how many doses they will purchase but the indication is that it would be 300-400 million doses by July 2021. We are in the process of applying in the next two weeks for the emergency use.”

Mr. Modi, in a tour to the vaccine making laboratories in the country, visited 3 cities to review the progress of manufacture and development. The efforts were a means for the PM to receive a “first-hand perspective of the preparations, challenges and roadmap in India’s endeavour to vaccinate its citizens”.

His Saturday schedule began with his visit to Zydus Cadila’s hub in Gujarat following which he reached Hyderabad for reviewing the work of one of the leading vaccine makers, Bharat BioTech that is developing Covaxin. His last stop took him to the Serum Institute of India in Pune, which is making the Oxford vaccine.

After experts raised eyebrows on the efficiency of the vaccine, Mr. Poonawalla’s statement gave the much-needed ampoule of confidence as he said, “At the moment the trials were more than enough for the efficacy. We might look at doing trials on group less than 18 years of age later on.”

Speaking about the abilities of the vaccine, he said that with the administration of Covishield (name of the Oxford vaccine) there was no necessity of hospitalization during the clinical trials. This leads to the meaning that when and if a person does catches the virus despite the vaccine shot, he/she will not require hospitalization as the infection will not be a severe one. Moreover, people who were already infected too will not be able to infect others, Mr. Poonawalla added.

The clarifications regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine comes after some experts and scientists had questioned the strength of the vaccine candidate as it gave a 90% efficacy report when a trial was concluded in a subgroup of volunteers that by mistake received half a dose of the vaccine followed by the complete dose.

“We are manufacturing 50-60 million doses per month. After January it will be 100 million doses,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, PM Modi tweeted about his visit to the vaccine hub of Covishield, being prepared by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, including his conversation with the scientists of the centre.

“Had a good interaction with the team at Serum Institute of India. They shared details about their progress so far on how they plan to further ramp up vaccine manufacturing. Also took a look at their manufacturing facility,” he posted on Twitter.