Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine isn’t expected to reach India anytime soon; US, UK...

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine isn’t expected to reach India anytime soon; US, UK first in line


MUMBAI: The encouraging results from US drug maker Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine trial suggest that the final product may be ready this year itself, but India may not immediately benefit from it, people aware of the matter said.

The initial doses of the vaccine will reach US markets first, since that country has an advance purchase deal for 100 million doses with Pfizer. Canada, Japan and the UK have also placed advanced orders, reserving supplies, they said.

The extremely stringent temperature requirement for mRNA vaccines, which is what the Pfizer vaccine candidate is based on, will also make it difficult to be used in India as part of a national immunisation strategy, experts said.

In the US too, Pfizer said, it won’t be able to apply for an emergency authorisation approval based on this data. “More data on safety is also needed, and we are continuing to accumulate that safety data as part of our ongoing clinical study,” Pfizer said in a statement.

Pfizer has tied up with German drug maker Biontech and Chinese company Fosun for the distribution of this vaccine in Europe and parts of Asia. India is not part of this global deal. Pfizer is also not part of any agreements with the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility that seeks to collect Covid vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.

India has not signed any advance purchase agreements with global or domestic vaccine makers.

vaccine graphic

The mRNA vaccine will need to be stored at minus 17 degrees; this is becoming a challenge even in the US, while in India a national rollout of something like this will be impossible, Davinder Gill, a former CEO of Wellcome Trust India, told ET last week. This is why most national immunisation programmes, especially in countries like India, would look to choose a vaccine that is easier to administer, Gill explained

Pfizer could not be reached for a comment till press time Monday.

In the US, besides the advance order, Pfizer has received funding of over $1 billion to develop this vaccine.

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