India's Serum Institute seeks emergency use nod for AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

BENGALURU: Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine producer by volume, has sought approval for emergency use of AstraZeneca Plc's COVID-19 vaccine in the country, its chief executive officer said on Monday.

The vaccine can be stored at two to eight degrees Celsius and distributed more easily in India, which has the world's second-highest number of infections and lacks cold chain capabilities that a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc requires.

Over the weekend, a top Indian government health adviser said in a TV interview that Pfizer had applied for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine.

Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla tweeted on Monday that the move "will save countless lives," but did not give any other details.

Poonawalla has said the company will first focus on supplying the vaccine in India before distributing it to other countries, pricing it at 1,000 rupees per dose ($13.50) for private markets, but governments signing large supply deals will likely buy it at lower prices.

An effective vaccine is increasingly being seen critical by governments as the only way to end a pandemic that has taken more than a million lives around the world.

Britain and some other nations have pressed on with plans to rolls out the AstraZeneca vaccine, while the Philippines and Thailand secured millions of doses, giving the shot a vote of confidence after experts raised questions about trial data.

Earlier in the day, media reports citing the Press Trust of India reported that Serum Institute's application stated that data from four clinical studies, two in the UK and one each in Brazil and India, showed that the vaccine was highly effective against severe COVID-19 infections.