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It will take more than just vaccines to tackle COVID-19 pandemic: Novartis CEO Narasimhan

At the minimum, therapeutics are a bridge to those high-volume, high-efficacy vaccines, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has said.

September 30, 2020 / 07:40 PM IST

(Image: Reuters)


Vaccines alone may not be sufficient to fight COVID-19 and treatment of the illness caused by the coronavirus would also play an important role,  Novartis Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan has said.

Adequate supplies of highly effective vaccines might not be available until the end of 2021, Narasimhan told Bloomberg. 


"At the minimum, therapeutics are a bridge to those high-volume, high-efficacy vaccines," Narasimhan told the news agency.

Even after a vaccine is available, it might not protect everyone, the CEO of the Swiss drugmaker said.


Also read: Coronavirus vaccine: How much will it really cost to immunise India?


"Likely even beyond the point of vaccines being broadly deployed, we will need therapeutics for those patients who still become ill from the virus," he added.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

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.

How many types of vaccines are there?

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.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

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.

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The pandemic has triggered a race for the vaccine, with candidates across the world at different stages of clinical trials. Some of the front-runners include experimental vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford University and Russia's Sputnik-V.

Also read: Here's a status update on 10 Covid-19 vaccines that are ahead of the pack

Novartis expects that data from a study on whether anti-inflammation drug canakinumab can help patients with severe COVID-19 will be available by the end of October or early November, Narasimhan said.


Novartis and 15 other drugmakers on September 30 issued a joint pledge with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which includes a commitment to equitable distribution of vaccines and therapies. 

Follow our full coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Moneycontrol News
first published: Sep 30, 2020 02:59 pm
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