As many as 30 groups ranging from industries to academics are working on COVID-19 vaccines across the country. Of these, about 20 are making good progress, said the Centre, according to a report by The Hindu Business Line.
Some of these vaccines are expected to go for pre-clinical trials by October and a few others by February 2021, said the report citing officials.
According to NITI Aayog Member (Health) Vinod Paul, around 14 vaccine candidates are running neck-and-neck.
Giving details, Paul said there are eight industry candidates, of which four are ahead of others. There are six candidates from national labs of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Department of Biotechnology, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, of which they are really hopeful of two or three candidates.
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.
Among the various drugs being tried, antivirals such as Favipiravir and Remdesivir are leading candidates, said Paul.
Also, a phytopharmaceutical drug ACQH and Arbidol are under investigation in a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) lab, said Paul, adding that, a drug Itolizumab that is used in psoriatic arthritis is also being considered.
Meanwhile, research is underway on whether BCG vaccine and Mycobacterium W can jack up immune systems, said the report.
K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser, said the cost of making a COVID-19 vaccine may go up to $2-3 billion as an attempt is being made to hasten this process in one year.
“It takes 10 to 15 years and $200-300 million to make a vaccine, an attempt is being made to hasten this process in one year, which elevates the cost to $2-3 billion,” said VijayRaghavan.Follow our full coverage on COVID-19 here.