While the global race to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus infection continues, India has begun making a priority list of those who should get the first vaccine shots once it becomes available.
The work to prepare the “approach paper” has already been started, said a Business Standard report citing a member of the expert group on vaccine administration preparing the list.
However, for this, no nationwide sero-prevalence study is to be conducted, said the member of the group.
According to the report, some experts had felt that India may use seroprevalence data to remove people who had developed antibodies from being given a vaccine shot.
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.
E Sreekumar, chief scientific officer at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, said there is a possibility that when the COVID-19 vaccine is almost ready, a nationwide seroprevalence study may be conducted to understand the spread of the infection amongst the population.
“This data may help to shape policies and also weed out people who have already developed antibodies against the virus and, therefore, don’t need a vaccine shot,” Sreekumar told the publication.
The expert group, comprising members from different government departments and domain experts, is also in contact with five domestic and three multinational vaccine makers to understand how soon a COVID-19 vaccine will be ready, said the report.
The five indigenous vaccine makers, Panacea Biotec, Biological E and Indian Immunologicals are working on their respective vaccines.
The other three — Serum Institute of India (SII), Cadila Healthcare, and Bharat Biotech — are in the advanced stages of vaccine development. Their vaccine candidates have reached the human clinical trial stage.
The SII has partnered with British drug major AstraZeneca, which is working with the University of Oxford and with Novavax for their COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
The multinational vaccine makers, who have been contacted by the expert group, are Sanofi Pasteur and Pfizer. Sanofi Pasteur is working on a recombinant DNA technology-based vaccine while Pfizer is working with German partner BioNTech, the report stated.Also, the group is in talks with a “fill-and-finish” company that would package the vaccine, the report stated.