The Covid-19 vaccines with the most promising chances of being used in India

Ready for the prick.
Ready for the prick.
Image: REUTERS/Amit Dave
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As countries across the world sign up for various Covid-19 vaccines, India is waiting and watching.

The Indian government has so far not committed to procuring either of the vaccines being developed. While prime minister Narendra Modi recently visited three Indian vaccine manufacturing plants, India’s inoculation plan for Covid-19 has still not been made public. The country’s health minister, Harsh Vardhan, has set a broad expectation of vaccinating 300 million Indians by August or September next year, but which of the vaccines will emerge as a suitable candidate is yet to be seen.

For now, Vardhan has said that there are nearly 20 vaccine candidates in India. The government has also announced a $120 million (Rs885 crore) grant for vaccine makers for research and development.

Currently, these are some of the vaccines—most of them in advanced stages of trials—that are either being indigenously developed in India or for whom Indian vaccine makers are conducting trials.

Covishield, Serum Institute of India

This is being developed from the “master seed” of the University of Oxford and Aglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine trial. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the largest vaccine maker in the world by volume, had committed to producing this vaccine even as the trials at Oxford were in the early stage. SII is currently conducting the third phase of human trials in India and hopes to have 100 million doses of this vaccine—which will be given to patients in two doses—by January. One trial participant has allegedly reported an adverse reaction to this vaccine, but SII has claimed that the reaction was unrelated to the trial. For the moment, this vaccine is the leading contender in India.

Covaxin, Bharat Biotech

Bharat Biotech, a pharmaceutical company based in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, claims that this is India’s first indigenously developed Covid-19 vaccines. Covaxin is currently the third phase of human trials, with 26,000 participants across 25 hospitals in the country. It expects the vaccine to be 60% effective, but no data about its trials have yet been shared. The vaccine rollout is expected in June 2021, after all the safety and regulatory checks.

ZyCov-d, Zydus Cadila

Unlike Covaxin and Covishield, ZyCov-d will be a three-dose Covid-19 vaccine. Currently, the Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical company has begun the third phase of human trials with nearly 30,000 participants. The results from this phase of the trial are likely to be available by April 2021. Zydus Cadila also has a non-exclusive agreement with US-based Gilead Sciences to produce remdesivir (pdf), an antiviral drug used in the treatment of Covid-19, in India.

Covovax, Serum Institute of India

SII is also developing the Covovax vaccine against Covid-19 in partnership with US-based biotech company Novavax. While the third phase of the trial has been delayed, Novovax’s tie-up with SII allows it to produce up to 2 billion doses of its vaccine a year, beginning mid-2021.

Sputnik V, Dr Reddy’s

The Gam-COVID-vac, or Sputnik V, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology has found a partner in Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical major Dr Reddy’s. The Indian drugmaker and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) entered into an agreement in September to conduct trials in India. The phase III trials began in India on Dec. 1, and have over 40,000 participants. If successful, Dr Reddy’s will also have distribution rights for 100 million doses exclusively for India. The RDIF expects the vaccine to be available next month.