Bharat Biotech Chairman Krishna Ella has hit back at doubters saying the company is receiving unfounded backlash as it has done “200 percent honest clinical trials” for Covaxin, its candidate vaccine against COVID-19.
Speaking to reporters on January 4, Ella seemingly also took a back-swipe at Serum Institute of India (SII) chief Adar Poonawalla’s jibe calling vaccines other than those by AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer as “like water.”
"We do 200 percent honest clinical trials and yet we receive backlash. If I am wrong, tell me. Some companies have branded me like water," he said. “Bharat Biotech was the first to identify the Zika virus and the first to file global patents for the Zika and Chikungunya vaccines,” Ella said while emphasising their coronavirus vaccine was “not inferior to the one developed by Pfizer.”
Bharat Biotech has faced a barrage of questions and concerns after the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) announced the grant of emergency use authorisation for its Covaxin and AstraZeneca-Oxford University’s vaccine candidate Covishield. SII is producing AstraZeneca's vaccine in India as Covishield.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Ella deflected criticism from industry experts and opposition leaders, asserting that the company has “a track record of producing safe and efficacious vaccines and has been transparent with all data.” He also said that Phase III data for Covaxin trials will be available in March.
He further said that sufficient data has already been revealed and is available online for people to access and suggested that Covaxin is being targeted and called “inferior” with questions raised about “sidestepping processes” and “premature clearances” because it is “a product of an Indian company.”