Bharat Biotech may commence paediatric trials of its Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin from June, a senior company official said.
The vaccine maker has already received permission to carry out trials on children aged 2-18 years.
Bharat Biotech’s Business Development & International Advocacy Head, Dr Raches Ella, exuded confidence that vaccine for kids may get the license in the third quarter of this year.
Holding a virtual conversation with members of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) Hyderabad on “All About Vaccines, he said that the company expected approval from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Covaxin by the end of third or fourth quarter.
Ella also said Bharat Biotech will be ramping up manufacturing capacity of Covaxin to 700 million doses by the end of this year.
“We are happy to have the full support of the government because of which we are able to stand where we are today in this journey. The vaccine is co-developed by us and ICMR. The Government placed an advanced purchase order of Rs 1,500 crore. This will help us to increase our risk appetite. That is why we are expanding to Bangalore and Gujarat,” he said.
Also seeking to dispel various myths about vaccines, he said that they are safe and everyone should take vaccines.
Replying to a query by Consultant, Breast Oncology & Oncoplastic Surgeon, Dr Pragnya Chigurupati, who moderated the talk, Ella said the success probability of a vaccine is just 6 per cent from discovery to development.
“”In normal circumstances, the development of a vaccine takes anywhere between 7 to 10 years, which we have done in the least possible time. This was never taught in books. This is something I learned practically. The journey was challenging, promising, and fulfilling,” he said.
Asked about dosing intervals he said ideally the gap should be between two weeks and can go up to six weeks. “If for some reason you miss that schedule, you need not get panicked. You can go and take the second dose anytime possible but at the earliest possible time.”
Three months after the second dose, a good antibody response can be developed. Talking about a booster dosage he said the current vaccines are doing good enough but it will depend on future variants of the virus if any booster doses needs to be taken or not.
About herd immunity, he said if the majority of the population are inoculated, that is when herd immunity can be achieved. About cross-matching of different vaccines he said: “As of now, no mix and match. The studies are on, if proved well, then we can take a call in the future”.
Stressing that no vaccines offer 100 per cent protection, he said that the vaccine efficacy can be improved up to 100 per cent protection by Covid appropriate behaviour and following other safety protocols.
Asked why people still get Corona even after taking the first dose, he replied that the first dose gives only partial efficacy. “That is because your immune system takes time to develop. It is a biological process and the system needs some time. The severity of the Covid effect will be a lot less after the second dose,” he said.
On distribution, he said right now they are allowed to sell vaccines to the Union government, the state governments, and private hospitals in the ratio of 70:20:10. If any corporates plan to inoculate their staff, they may collaborate with private hospitals, he said.
FLO Hyderabad Chairperson, Uma Chigurupati described Covid-19 as a global health crisis. She pointed out that India is the worst hit and has surpassed Brazil.