Britain has become the first country in the world to approve the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. The country is now battling a new strain of the virus which is said to be a highly contagious variant.
"The government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use," the health ministry said, as quoted by Reuters.
COVID-19, which emerged about a year ago in China, has killed 1.7 million people around the world and left economies struggling.
A new variant of COVID-19 was found in England in mid-December which led to other countries imposing travel restrictions to the UK.
The new UK variant has so far been found to be present in India, Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.
AstraZeneca and other developers are now studying the impact of the new variant, however, it is expected that their shots will be effective against it.
The UK nod is positive for AstraZeneca and the Oxford team as they were earlier accused of a lack of clarity about the results from late-stage trials.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine ‘Covishield’ is being produced by Serum Institute of India, which has already produced around 50 million dosages and plans to scale it up to 100 million by March next year.
Serum Institute has applied for emergency use authorisation in India while the regulatory nod is still awaited.
Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Cyrus Poonawalla, Chairman, Poonawalla Group said, “We are much in touch with Drugs Controller General of India and it may grant a license to us by the end of this week or next week on the basis of approvals that our collaborators in England, AstraZeneca and Oxford, have already been accorded with. I don’t think licensing of the vaccine made by Serum Institute of India should be far away, may be a few days from today.”
However, Poonawalla mentioned that the Health Ministry had still not given the order or commitment to buy vaccine doses to from the company.
"Indian government haven’t given us any firm commitment and we are really looking forward from the government at this stage to release their requirements to us,” he said.
On pricing, Poonawalla said, “We will certainly won’t run in loss because of the scale of manufacturing, but we don’t envisage too much of profit from it."
Poonawalla assured that the company will supply the COVAX vaccine first in India and later in other countries.
“We are not very anxious to start supplying immediately because India comes first and then the private market of India comes along with that or second or simultaneously or depending on what permissions government releases us and then only we will look at other countries,” he said.