World's Biggest Vaccine Producer Lends Support To Astrazeneca After Drugmaker Misstep

Serum Institute of India (SII), which has partnered with Novavax, Inc NVAX 22.5% and AstraZeneca Plc AZN 0.02% for trials in India, believes the latter’s COVID-19 vaccine is “a very good one.”

What Happened

SII Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla praised the efficiency of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, called Covishield, during an online press briefing on Saturday, Reuters has reported.

“What we found with Covishield in its global trial is there were zero hospitalizations, which means even if you do get infected you’re not going to have a severe attack and secondly even those who got the disease were not infecting others,” he explained during the call.

Poonawalla also said the institute would apply for an emergency-use license in the next couple of weeks.

SII is the world's largest vaccine producer, according to Reuters.

Why It Matters

The Serum Institute is also conducting trials for the Novavax vaccine but says that AstraZeneca has a competitive advantage over the rest of pharma companies.

“Both our vaccine candidates can be stored in 2 Celsius to 8 Celsius and India has a lot of storage and infrastructure for that temperature range. It has slightly less storage capacity for -20 C and almost nothing for -70 C,” Poonawalla said.

US pharma giants Pfizer Inc. PFE 2% and Moderna Inc MRNA are also working on COVID-19 vaccines and have recently shared positive trial results, but they would require storage at very low temperatures. Pfizer's product would need -70C, and Moderna's needs 2 to 8 degrees Celsius when stored for up to a month, but it falls to -20C temperature when storage for up to six months is needed.

The institute's statement might bring back some public goodwill for AstraZeneca, following criticism after a dosage mistake during trials was revealed.

AstraZeneca's CEO called the mistake "irrelevant" while speaking to the Wall Street Journal, but experts, including a former president of Pfizer's global R&D unit and a microbiology professor from Cornell University, were not so quick to let it go, Business Insider reported.

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