The Drugs Controller General of India on August 20 gave approval for emergency use to ZyCoV- D vaccine, the world’s first plasmid DNA jab developed by Zydus Cadila for COVID-19.
The three-dose jab, which can also be administered to adolescents aged 12 and above, is the second indigenous vaccine to receive the nod, after Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Here’s is everything you need to know about Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D
Plasmid DNA technology
ZyCoV-D will inject genetically engineered plasmids that carry the code for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This will trigger the production of the spike protein of COVID-19 and stimulate immuno-response. Though similar to the messenger RNA technology, DNA vaccines can be redesigned to various mutations.
At present, all vaccines that have been approved or are under clinical trials use technologies such as the viral vector (J&J, Sputnik V and AstraZeneca), messenger RNA (Pfizer and Moderna), whole virus (Bharat Biotech, Sinopharm, Sinovac) and protein subunit (Novavax). These vaccines give instructions to the body to produce a fragment of the spike protein that creates antibodies.
Advantages of DNA vaccine
Zydus Cadila has said that ZycoV-D (2 mg per dose) was tested on 28,000 volunteers,including 1,000 volunteers in the age of 12-18 years, across more than 50 centres. The vaccine has shown robust immunogenicity and tolerance, especially among adolescents. It showed a 66.6 percent efficacy in symptomatic COVID-19 positive cases and 100 percent efficacy in moderate cases.
As trials were held during the peak of the second COVID-19 wave, the vaccine shows efficacy against new mutant strains such as the Delta variant. The pharma firm now plans to seek approval for its two-dose regimen (3 mg per dose).
Doses and inoculation
Apart from being the first DNA-based vaccine, ZyCoV- D is also the first needle-free vaccine. It will be administered in three doses – first on day zero, second on day 28, and third on day 56. A special applicator called the PharmaJet will be used to administer the intradermal vaccine painlessly.
Amid speculation that the three-dose vaccine may have a higher price, Cadila has said it is in talks with regulatory authorities on pricing and will provide more clarity over the next one to two weeks.
Crucial to India’s vaccination plans
Zydus Cadila’s vaccine is set to give India’s inoculation drive a shot in the arm as the parma firm is preparing to manufacture 10-12 crore doses annually. The company hopes to roll out the vaccine by the end of September and scale up manufacturing to one crore doses by October. It expects a larger pick from the age group of 12 to 18 years.
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)