Hungary’s National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI) announced on Monday that it has given a temporary license to Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine developed by Oxford University and produced in India.
Manufactured with technology AstraZeneca gave to the Serum Institute of India (SII), this vaccine has already been provided with a temporary license in Hungary.
OGYÉI has also allowed the Chinese Convidecia vaccine, developed by CanSino Biologics Inc. and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, to be shipped to Hungary for further testing.
Hungary Allows for Quick Authorization of CoviShield
The Covishield licensing seemingly came out of the blue, but this is because the Hungarian government passed a ruling in January allowing it to license any vaccine which has already been used on at least one million people.
Not only this, but the vaccine must have been given the greenlight in at least three countries, one of them being at minimum a prospecting member of the European Union, a member of the European Economic Area, or a member of the European Union itself.
This legislation was used back in February to give the Sinopharm vaccine an emergency license, as it was already being used in Serbia.
Last week, the Hungarian government modified this law even more to allow for countries with similar rules around production and clinical trials to those of Hungary to be eligible for emergency authorization as well. This includes both SII and CanSino.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also stated in a recent Kossuth Radio interview that Hungary is looking to begin tests on newer vaccines.
Covishield Not Yet Arriving to Family Doctors in Hungary
Despite the emergency license, Covishield is not yet ready for use in Hungary. Before it is taken to general practitioners to be used for inoculation, Hungarian authorities must first come to an agreement with the vaccine’s manufacturers.
Once this is done, the National Public Health Center (NNK) will conduct a final analysis of the vaccine and its production. If that is completed successfully, Covishield will be available for use in vaccination.
While it is marketed as Covishield, the vaccine is the same as the widely used Astrazeneca. Although there has been a small controversy around it with regards to side effects, this proved to be more of a scare than something that would justify the complete shutdown of the vaccine.
Safety of AstraZeneca Backed up by EMA
13 European countries chose to discontinue their use of AtraZeneca after 15 patients suffered deep vein thrombosis and 22 suffered from pulmonary embolism following their inoculations. It was not confirmed that their condition was directly related to the vaccine.
AstraZeneca said that there is no evidence that would back up the accusation that the vaccine can cause such severe side effects. Their statement has been supported by the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency, as well as the fact that millions of people have been vaccinated by the Oxford University developed vaccine with no significant side effects.
AstraZeneca Shares Third Phase Clinical Trials
Like its counterpart AstraZeneca, Covishield is a vector vaccine which uses a deactivated chimpanzee adenovirus to train the immune system to defend itself against the coronavirus. It can be used on any age group above the age of 18.
Based off AstraZeneca’s findings, Covishield is 76 percent effective, but if its second dose is administered 12 weeks after the first, that number is increased to 82 percent efficacy. Hungary has been administering the second dose within 12 weeks of the first since March 1.
AstraZeneca published its phase three clinical trials on Monday. It involved 32,449 participants, one fifth of them above the age of 65 and 60 percent of them already afflicted with two or more diseases. In these trials, the vaccine was concluded to be 79 percent effective in preventing the symptomatic coronavirus and 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization.
High Hopes for Lower Income Countries
When AstraZeneca gave the Pune-centered Serum Institute of India their Covid vaccine production rights in June 2020, they came to an agreement that the institute would produce at least one billion doses for middle- and lower-income countries, including India.
The world’s wealthiest countries have control over global vaccine supply. In fact, one sixth of the world’s population (the wealthiest) has secured 60 percent of all ordered vaccines. For example, the United States could inoculate its entire population six times over with the number of vaccines it has ordered, Canada ten times over.
Having produced more than half a billion vaccine doses, SII is currently the largest vaccine producer in the world. It is currently shipping its vaccine to 160 countries outside of India, and is involved in the global Covax program. By April, SII wishes to increase its monthly vaccine production from 60-70 million doses to 100 million.
It is still unknown how many Covishield doses are being sent to Hungary, and how much the Hungarian government will pay for them.
In the featured photo illustration, a doctor shows the Indian Covishield coronavirus vaccine at the Novák Endre Transcarpathia County Clinical Hospital in Ungvár, March 11, 2021. Featured photo illustration by János Nemes/MTI