Updated: July 22, 2020 8:02:48 am
“Just a few million doses of the vaccine against coronavirus will not be enough in India,” said Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman of Poonawalla Group – which includes the Serum Institute of India (SII). He was speaking during an online discussion organised by FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), Pune chapter. “We have committed to manufacture at least one billion doses after getting required approvals. We are in the process of applying for a license to start clinical trials of the vaccine, after which we’ll start manufacturing it in large volumes. For that, we might have to hold back our work on other products,” he added.
“We have partnered with Oxford University and its partner AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine. Our emphasis is on making the vaccine more efficacious and safer, with no side-effects. The government has promised to grant over Rs 1,000 crore for the same, and we want to make the vaccine available at the lowest price possible, so even the poor can afford it. Besides India, we also want to make it available in underdeveloped countries like Africa,” Dr Poonawalla said in a statement issued later.
Phase 1 of the clinical trial is over, and Phase 2 and 3 are being held in Austria. Dr Poonawalla said the testing parameters of the vaccine are underway and will be released soon, and that the vaccine will be ready by December this year.
When asked if there could be any setbacks or failure in terms of productivity and output of the vaccine, Dr Poonawalla, who founded SII in 1966 said, “We have come to a stage where chances of failure look remote, as we are spending more than $100 million for this facility. If we get the approvals and trials are completed successfully for safety and efficacy, a lot of companies will manufacture the vaccine and India will be the largest producer of the Covid-19 vaccine in the world.”
He also said the institute has requested the Government of India to give permission to make the first dispensation of the vaccine for its employees, who are at high risk of contracting the virus.
He added, “There has been no evidence of the mutation of Covid-19 and the theory should not be taken seriously. Even as the vaccine is yet to be produced, I strongly advocate the use of BCG vaccine for everyone, which is an immunity booster with no side-effects and is better than homeopathy medicines.”
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