Zydus Cadila on Thursday said it has applied for emergency use authorisation (EUA) with the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for its COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D. The company said that it can be ready for rollout within 45 to 60 days of getting an approval.
ZyCoV-D is touted to be the first plasmid DNA vaccine against COVID-19 and it is also raising interest as it can be administered with a needle-free applicator.
The company that already has anti-COVID treatments available in the market claimed to have conducted the largest clinical trial in India so far at over 50 centers and the participants included people between age group 12 and 18 years.
How is it different from other vaccines?
However, the company said it has >also evaluated a two-dose regimen for ZyCoV-D vaccine using a 3 milligram dose per visit and the immunogenicity results had >been found to be equivalent to the current three-dose regimen.
This will further help in reducing the full course duration of vaccination while maintaining the high safety profile of the vaccine in the future, the company added.
It is an >intradermal vaccine, which is applied using The PharmaJet needle free system. Needle-free injectors deliver the vaccine using a narrow stream of fluid to penetrate the skin, and deliver vaccine to the proper tissue depth. The company says this methodology can eliminate chances of needlestick injury and will also lead to a significant reduction in any kind of side effects. It will also help people suffering from trypanophobia, a common condition marked by irrational fear of blood or needles. It’s estimated that fear of needles affects up to 25 percent of adults.
ZyCoV-D is >not very sensitive to temperature unlike its competitors. The prescribed storage temperature is between 2 to 8 degrees centigrade, but has shown good stability at temperatures of 25 degrees centigrade as well for at least three months.
The >thermostability of the vaccine will help in easy transportation and storage of the vaccine and reduce any cold chain breakdown challenges leading vaccine wastage.
It can be manufactured at a BSL-1 grade lab which brings down cost of production and ensures that the cost of expanding production units. In comparison, Covaxin needs a Bio-Safety Level 3 lab to manufacture the jab.
Who will benefit?
Dr Sharvil Patel, managing director, Cadila Healthcare, said the vaccine when approved >will help not only adults but also adolescents in the 12 to 18 years age group.
The science behind the jab: How does it work?
ZyCoV-D is a plasmid DNA vaccine which when injected produces the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and elicits an immune response mediated by the cellular and humoral arms of the human immune system, which play a vital role in protection from disease as well as viral clearance.
In simpler words, it means that the vaccine is manufactured by creating a close enough copy of the virus’ DNA sequence so that no harm or disease is caused, but the immune system response is triggered when the body encounters the real virus the next time.
Interim efficacy results
The vaccine has shown a primary efficacy of 66.6 percent for symptomatic RT-PCR positive cases in the interim analysis. Whereas, no moderate case of COVID-19 disease was observed in the vaccine arm post administration of the third dose suggesting 100% efficacy for moderate disease.
No severe cases or deaths due to COVID-19 occurred in the vaccine arm after administration of the second dose of the vaccine.
However, its phase three trial data is not yet peer-reviewed.
The vaccine manufacturers also claimed that the vaccine’s efficacy data was collected through India’s largest clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine so far. A study carried out in more than 50 clinical sites spread across the country and during the peak of second wave of COVID-19 reaffirming the vaccine’s efficacy against the new mutant strains especially the delta variant, Cadila Healthcare managing director Dr Patel said.
He also emphasised that the plasmid DNA platform is ideally suited for dealing with COVID-19 as it can be easily adapted to deal with mutations in the virus. Moreover, the DNA vaccines offer a number of potential advantages over traditional approaches that include stimulation of both B and T cell responses, improving the vaccine stability, says WHO.
Availability and pricing
The company plans to manufacture 10 to 12 crore doses annually once it gets the emergency use authorisation. However, the company did not give any hint on the expected price of the vaccine jab. It clarified that the price of vaccine will be charged separately and the needle-free applicater will come at a separate cost. The company has, however, not yet decided if it will roll out the final product by clubbing the prices of the jab and the applicator.
“It is too early to comment on the pricing. That discussion is yet to happen. We will announce the price before the commercial launch of ZyCoV-D,” Patel told a press conference. He said that so far up to Rs 500 crore has been invested in the development of the Zydus vaccine.