The recent results of the various Covid-19 vaccines are “promising” and a vaccine could be “well on its way”, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said.
“A number of countries have seen flattening of curves at various points during the last nine months of the pandemic prevalence. However, recently we have seen second wave strikes in some of these countries…It is clear that we need to fast track development of potential vaccines against COVID-19,”
Vaccines usually require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic. They have to be proved safe and effective in animal studies, then in small trials in healthy volunteers, followed by large trials in representative groups of people, including the elderly, the sick and the young.
The aim of a vaccine is to prevent a disease by working with the body's natural immune response. When a vaccinated person is exposed to the virus, the immune system recognizes the pathogen and prevents the person from getting infected or sick.
At present, three prominent vaccine candidates are being tested in India, only one of which — Covishield — had reached Phase-3 trials. Covishield, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, is being tested in India by the Pune-based Serum Institute, which has committed to producing millions of doses for India and other low- and middle-income countries, should the vaccine candidate prove successful and be cleared by regulators.
So far, the company has invested 11 billion rupees (US$200 million) to manufacture the vaccine, and has produced about 2 million doses for use in regulatory clearances and testing, even before the trials have ended. Two factories that were producing other vaccines have been redirected to this effect, and the company can make 60 million to 70 million doses a month at full capacity.
The other two candidates are being tested by the firms Zydus Cadilla and Bharat Biotech.
Indian drug companies are big manufacturers of vaccines distributed worldwide, particularly those for low- and middle-income countries.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) has an agreement to manufacture one billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine if it is approved for use.
Globally, there are 230-odd programmes looking to create Covid-19 vaccines, with 130 companies being in a reasonably advanced stage. Of this, around 10 have already started clinical trials. In India, over a dozen companies are working on vaccines.
Bill Gates has said India's willingness to play a "big role" in manufacturing Covid-19 vaccine and allow it to supply to other developing countries will be a critical part in containing the pandemic. The Microsoft co-founder said the world is looking to India for large scale production of COVID-19 vaccine once it is rolled out.
Globally, as of 25 December 2020, there have been 78,194,947 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1,736,752 deaths, reported to WHO.
And now as India heads closer to the D-day with the government hinting that a vaccine is only a few weeks away, the Union Health Ministry has revealed its Covid-19 vaccine distribution and administration plan.
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