A safe vaccine to prevent COVID-19 could take a very long time to be ready, so there is a need to deal with the pandemic for next few years and invest more in healthcare, Biocon Executive Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said on Saturday.
She was speaking in a webinar on 'Pharma and Healthcare's New Normal: Engaging With Customers in Uncertain Times; Business Model Post-COVID-19', organised by CorpGini.
"...We believe that it will take a very long time before you can actually have a safe vaccine that can be accessible to the entire country. We must understand that vaccine development is a very complex process. Shortest time taken for any vaccine is not less than 4 years," Mazumdar-Shaw said.
Trying to develop vaccine in less than a year is a very daunting and almost impossible task. Vaccine development involves a large number of processes to establish the safety, efficacy and endurance of the vaccine, she added.
"We need to deal with this pandemic for the next few years before we really get a reliable vaccine... We need to invest much more in healthcare. If this pandemic has exposed one ugly truth about every country, not just India, it is about the appalling state of public and primary healthcare, appalling state of under investing in healthcare," Mazumdar-Shaw said.
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.
Healthcare is a capital intensive sector, it is a skill intensive sector, it is a employment generation sector, she added.
"There needs to be a very systematic data led approach to see how can we deal with the infection and keep people safe," Mazumdar-Shaw said.
This is one opportunity for us to invest in healthcare infrastructure, because this what will save India and the world, she added.
In similar vein, Apollo Hospitals MD Suneeta Reddy said: "This pandemic has clearly shown us the need for medical infrastructure. There needs to be an investment in healthcare, not only in infrastructure but also in skilling".
Impetus given to the IT sector needs to be given to the healthcare sector to create additional infrastructure, she added.
We hope the government considers healthcare as next IT sector, Reddy said.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.