In the past few months, many pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and Moderna have announced successful trials of COVID-19 vaccine, but the world still eyes for the University of Oxford Vaccine which is being developed in India. The University of Oxford is developing the COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with Swedish-British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
There are various reasons behind why scientists and policymakers around the world are praying for the success of the Oxford vaccine. The most important among them being its low cost and no storage issue. The Oxford vaccine, at $2.50 per dose, is very cheap compared to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which cost $20 per dose and upward $25 per dose respectively. Moreover, the Oxford vaccine could be stored at a fridge temperature while Oxford and Modern vaccines need to be stored at minus 20 to 80 degree.
“There’s a lot riding on the Astra vaccine,” said Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. For lower-income countries, “it’s huge.”
Moreover, given the fact that the Oxford vaccine is being developed in collaboration with Serum Institute of India (SII) – world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the mass production and distribution of vaccines, especially in India, would not be a major issue.
As far as the efficacy is concerned, the Oxford vaccine has numbers around 70 per cent while those of Pfizer and Moderna are at above 90 per cent, but there is a caveat. It was found that half dose of Oxford vaccine has 90 per cent efficacy, and if it proved the same in the next trials, it will be a big win because a very high level of efficacy can be achieved only with half the dose. This also means a larger number of people can be vaccinated with lower production of doses, and this will be a big win for the initial days because the production capacity is expected to be low initially. In that case, the Oxford vaccine would be cost-effective, easy to store, and would have the same efficacy.
“The vast majority of the global populations live in low- and middle-income countries,” said Mark Eccleston-Turner, a law and infectious disease specialist at Keele University in England. “It’s not just a problem for people over there, far away from us. This is a problem for most people in the world.”
Also, the success of the Oxford vaccine will also ensure the success of Russia’s much-anticipated Sputnik V vaccine which has been developed through the same process.
Once the vaccine is developed and India starts mass production, it will be supplied to Indians first and then would be exported to countries around the world, as the country did in the case of HCQ. “A majority of the vaccine, at least initially, would have to go to our countrymen before it goes abroad,” Poonawalla said.
Which country gets the vaccine, the priority in which countries get the vaccine, and how much vaccine is given to any country would be decided by the Indian government. The Modi government is already working closely with Serum institute and PMO is closely monitoring the developments of the same.