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COVID-19: WHO chief scientist says India exhibited capacity to innovate, manufacture vaccines

Speaking at the Global Bio-India 2021, she opined that the fight against the coronavirus pandemic is at a very critical junction now as cases have suddenly gone up, particularly in Europe and America.

March 02, 2021 / 03:18 PM IST

India has shown the capacity to be a global-scale manufacturer and also an innovator when it comes to coronavirus vaccines, World Health Organization's Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.

Speaking at the Global Bio-India 2021, she opined that the fight against the coronavirus pandemic is at a very critical junction now as cases have suddenly gone up, particularly in Europe and America.

There are many uncertainties now, especially on the different variants of the virus, she noted.

"India has shown the capacity to be a manufacturer at the global scale and also be an innovator when it came to vaccine development. There is a huge amount of scope to study the impact of vaccines, which needs to be thought-through by a very coordinated approach," she said.

As many as 30 vaccines are at different stages of development in India. Covaxin, developed indigenously by Biotech, and Covishield, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and being manufactured at Serum Institute of India, are already in use in the country.

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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 vaccine candidates of Zydus Cadila and Russia's Sputnik V are in phase 3 of the human clinical trials. Sputnik V, which is being manufactured by Reddy's Laboratories in India, has initiated the process for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) with the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).

India has supplied vaccines to several nations while many others have also placed orders for the same.

Vinod Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog lauded the efforts of scientific community and said the speed with which the solutions during the pandemic appeared was phenomenal.

The stories of development of vaccines are amazing examples of how time can be compressed and scientific mobilisation can be initiated. The intent to have a global footprint in the manufacturing sector when it came to COVID-19 vaccine was path-breaking and something to be proud of.

We have realised that we have the potential to deliver in a speedy manner, like we did for vaccine distribution, he said.

The three-day Global Bio-India 2021 was inaugurated Monday by Harsh Vardhan, the minister of Science & Technology, and Health & Family Welfare.
PTI
first published: Mar 2, 2021 03:14 pm

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