While insisting on indemnity, Pfizer says its vaccine works on strain found in India
New Delhi, May 27: Seeking a fast-track approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, US major Pfizer has told Indian authorities that its jab has shown "high effectiveness" against the SARS-CoV-2 variant prevalent in India and on people of Indian ethnicity or nationality, while it is suitable for everyone aged 12 years or above and can be stored for a month at 2-8 degrees, sources told PTI.
Pfizer, which is ready to offer 5 crore doses to India between July and October this year and has sought certain relaxations including indemnification, has held a series of interactions with the Indian government authorities recently including one this week, during which it shared the most recent data points regarding efficacy trials and approvals for its vaccine in various countries and by the World Health Organisation (WHO), PTI also reported.
"The current situation in India, and across the world, is not 'business as usual' and we must not respond to it with processes as usual too," a source quoted Pfizer as having communicated to the Indian government.
Another source privy to the discussions said that following recent meetings between the Indian government and Pfizer's Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla, they have agreed to jointly work on three key issues to accelerate approval for the company's COVID-19 vaccine in India, namely procurement through a central government pathway; indemnity and liability; and the regulatory requirement for post-approval bridging studies.
While India has administered over 20 crore doses so far since the launch of its vaccination drive in mid-January, it is still a long way to reach the vaccination for the entire population, more so in the backdrop of many states having flagged shortage of vaccines and the gap between supply and requirement widening amid the deadly second wave.
India is currently using mainly two 'made-in India' jabs - Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech - and Russian-made Sputnik V at a smaller scale to inoculate its population, all of which are approved only for those aged 18 years and above.
In its latest communication to the government, Pfizer has also thanked the Government of India to have agreed to its request for procurement through a central government pathway and to discuss "the Indemnity and Liability protection".
"The timely alignment and execution of the draft Heads of Terms will enable Pfizer to reserve the allocation of doses and pave the pathway for executing the Distribution and Supply Agreement," the company told the government while seeking fast-tracking the regulatory pathway to help it supply "Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as expeditiously as possible to India".
The company is, however, open to considering safety surveillance of the first 100 subjects after understanding the process to be followed.
It has also stated that the Pfizer vaccine has undergone significant development over the last six months which includes improvement in storage conditions at 208 degrees for over one month (31 days) at the site of vaccination.
"Recent data points confirm the high effectiveness of BNT612b2 2-dose regimen against SARS-CoV-2 variants, and among individuals of Indian ethnicity," Pfizer has said.
Providing data, it said UK's Public Health England (PHE) has reported high vaccine effectiveness (87.9 per cent) against the B.1.617.2 variant, most reported in India, in an observational study (concluded on May 22, 2021).
It further said 26 per cent of study participants overall were of "Indian or British Indian" ethnicity, and also included Bangladeshi (1.4 per cent), Pakistani (5.9 per cent) and any other Asian background (5.7 per cent), indicating that the observed vaccine effectiveness applies to these groups as well.