Dr Elisa Granato (left) is the first human to receive a dose of the hAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine from the Oxford Vaccine Group.
YouTube/University of Oxford
  • The Serum Institute of India said it is going to start making a still-experimental coronavirus vaccine while it is still on trial.
  • The Oxford Vaccine Group is currently running human trials on the hAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, but won't be done until September. There is no guarantee it will work.
  • Human trials started in Oxford on Thursday. The group is targeting September for an effective product - but there is no guarantee it will work.
  • Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Monday: "The decision - at our own risk and cost - has been solely taken to get a jump-start on manufacturing."
  • For mores stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The world's largest vaccine maker is mass-producing a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University Oxford without knowing if it works.

The Serum Institute of India - which produces 1.5 billion vaccine doses each year for an array of diseases - said it will start production before the autumn target date of the Oxford trial.

The Oxford Vaccine Group says it hopes to complete human trials on the hAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine in September.

On Thursday, the first two humans were injected with the vaccine in Oxford. Around 1,100 people in the UK will be injected as part of the trial, which is funded by the UK government.

"We may get enough data in a couple of months to see if the vaccine works, but if transmission levels drop, this could take up to six months," the group said on Thursday.

The group hopes to produce one million doses of the vaccine itself by September.

The Serum Bio-Pharma Park in Pune, India.
Serum Institute
But Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India told the Times of India on Monday that he would not wait that long.

He said the institute would produce five million units of the vaccine a month, for six months, to get ahead of demand.

"We are not waiting for the trials to get over in September in UK, and then start production here. The decision - at our own risk and cost - has been solely taken to get a jump-start on manufacturing, to have enough doses available, if the clinical trials prove successful," he said.

Prince Charles visits the Serum Institute in November 2013 in Pune, India.
Arthur Edwards - Pool/Getty Images
"We aim to manufacture four to five million doses per month for the first six months, following which, we might scale up to 10 million doses per month, based on the success of trials. We are looking to build it up to 20-40 million doses by September-October."

"We are planning to make the vaccine available at an affordable price of around 1,000 rupees (R247) in India," he said. Drug prices vary widely around the world, and the same treatment often costs many times more in other countries.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is leading Oxford's attempt to secure a vaccine, said on April 11 that September was a realistic date to expect a vaccine that could work.

"I think there's a high chance that it will work based on other things that we have done with this type of vaccine," she said.

Poonawalla previously told Business Insider India that his company would not patent the vaccine.

"We don't want to make money from and commercialise something beyond a sustainable level in such a public health epidemic," he said.

Around 80 vaccines are currently in development around the world, according to the BBC.

The Oxford scientists started developing a vaccine on January 10 and said on March 18 they had found a promising candidate.

Gilbert and her team previously developed a vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.

Get the best of our site emailed to you daily: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: