Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla Saturday said that the company has applied to start the trials of another Covid-19 vaccine in partnership with Novavax in India and that it hopes to launch Covavax by June 2021.

The announcement comes a day after Novavax Inc said that its vaccine was 89.3 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 in a trial conducted in the United Kingdom, and was nearly as effective in protecting against the more highly contagious variant first discovered in the UK, according to a preliminary analysis.

Poonawalla took to Twitter to say that the SII’s partnership with Novavax for a coronavirus vaccine has given excellent efficacy results. “Our partnership for a COVID-19 vaccine with @Novavax has also published excellent efficacy results. We have also applied to start trials in India. Hope to launch COVOVAX by June 2021!” he tweeted.

Our partnership for a COVID-19 vaccine with @Novavax has also published excellent efficacy results. We have also applied to start trials in India. Hope to launch #COVOVAX by June 2021!

— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) January 30, 2021

Novavax is already stockpiling vaccine at six operating manufacturing locations, and said it expects a total of eight plants in seven countries to produce at the rate of 2 billion doses per year, including from the Serum Institute of India.

Novavax said it started making new versions of its vaccine to protect against emerging virus variants in early January and expects to select ideal candidates for a booster in the coming days. The company said it plans to initiate clinical testing of these new vaccines in the second quarter of this year.

Novavax’s is a more conventional protein-based vaccine, an approach similar to that used by Sanofi to make its Flublok seasonal flu vaccine. The Novavax vaccine works with the company’s proprietary Matrix-M adjuvant used to boost its efficacy.

The Pune-based firm has produced the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, which is co-developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca. The Centre has purchased 11 million doses of the vaccine, also known as Covishield in India.

India started its mass inoculation programme against Covid-19 on January 16 and around 3 crore healthcare and frontline workers are the first in line to receive the shot. Since the beginning of the pandemic, SII has manufactured and stockpiled around 40 million doses of Covishield “at risk”.

SII had announced last year that it had received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to supply around 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the first half of 2021. This includes doses of both Covishield and another Covid-19 vaccine that it is manufacturing for US-based Novavax.

India detected its first case of novel coronavirus infection a year ago on January 30, 2020. A  year later, as the epidemic continues to rage in several American and European countries, India seems to be on an irreversible path towards exit. The number of new cases has been declining steadily for over four months now, the downward progression remaining unaffected by the festival season, elections, or the easing of movement restrictions.

The average number of new detections every day has fallen to between 12,000 and 14,000. If it had not been for Kerala, which is now contributing almost half of all new cases in the country, this number could have been well below 10,000.

Active cases have come down from a high of over 10 lakh to just about 1.7 lakh now. Fewer than 150 deaths are being reported every day from across the country.

Except for Kerala and Maharashtra, no state has reported more than 1,000 new infections in a day for the last 20 days. In fact, some of the worst affected states, including Andhra Pradesh and Delhi, are now reporting fewer than 200 cases a day. Deaths have come down to single digits in all states except Kerala and Maharashtra.

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