NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India hopes five locally-tested vaccines will help it to control COVID-19, as those developed by Pfizer <PFE.N> and Moderna <MRNA.O> may not be available to it in big quantities soon.
The five candidates include Russia’s Sputnik-V whose “Phase-II going to Phase-III” trials in India will start next week in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories <REDY.NS>, Vinod Paul, the head of a committee advising the prime minister, said.
The other experimental vaccines are the one being developed by AstraZeneca <AZN.L> and Oxford University which is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India; Bharat Biotech and the Indian government’s COVAXIN; Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D and lastly one being developed by Biological E. Ltd alongside Baylor College of Medicine and Dynavax Technologies Corp <DVAX.O>.
Paul told a news briefing that AstraZeneca vaccine’s last-stage trials in India had gone well and had almost been completed. The country of 1.35 billion people has reported 8.87 million infections, second only to the United States, and 130,519 deaths as a result of COVID-19.
“We are very hopeful that we will be successful with the five vaccines,” Paul said on Tuesday. “They are easy platforms, availability of doses is very high. They will be able to control our pandemic in terms of the numbers of doses required.”
Paul said the government was also watching the progress of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which have said interim results of last-stage trials of their candidates showed that they were more than 90% effective.
Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine which must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius or below, Moderna’s can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, making it more suited for poorer countries such as India where cold chains are limited.
“This obviously will be a very big hindrance to scale up the vaccine,” Paul said of Pfizer’s, adding that if India finds itself needing to do so it will pursue this option.
“If we are required to form our strategy on this particular vaccine, then we will proceed with it. Though, even if we get it, we will get it in a few months only. But talks are ongoing.”
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Alexander Smith)