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Coronavirus pandemic | Haven’t set August 15 as deadline, COVID-19 vaccine will have to undergo all trials: ICMR

The Indian Council of Medical Research has said it aims to complete the indigenous COVID-19 vaccine’s clinical trials as soon as possible, and that it has not set August 15 as a deadline.
Jul 6, 2020 / 09:25 AM IST

Seeking to end the controversy over a possible hurried attempt at developing an indigenous vaccine against the novel coronavirus, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), on July 5, said it had not set an August 15 deadline for the drug.

The medical authority said its aim was to complete the vaccine’s clinical trials as soon as possible, similar to candidates in other countries, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On July 2, ICMR’s Director General Balram Bhargava wrote to Bharat Biotech chairman and managing director Krishna M Ella and executive director V Krishna Mohan, asking them to “fast track" clinical trials of vaccine candidate Covaxin.

ICMR and Bharat Biotech, a private pharmaceutical company, said that they had “envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by August 15, 2020. ICMR’s National Institute of Virology and Bharat Biotech are jointly developing a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Just as red tape was not allowed to become a hindrance in the fast-track approval of new indigenous testing kits or for introducing in the Indian market potential COVID-19 related drugs, the indigenous vaccine development process has also been sought to be insulated from slow file movement," Mint quoted ICMR as saying.

COVID-19 Vaccine

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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.

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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 report quotes an unnamed ICMR official as saying that the medial authority’s “internal communication is being misinterpreted”.

Also read | Explained: How did Bharat Biotech emerge as dark horse in race for COVID-19 vaccine?

“We only said that we envisage to have a vaccine by 15 August and it is not a deadline. We have not said that we will launch a vaccine by then. The process can be expedited but the vaccine still will have to undergo all safety clinical trials," the official told the newspaper on condition of anonymity.

The possibility of having a COVID-19 vaccine ready for public use by August 15 had raised concerns over potential lapses in clinical tests due to the hurry.

Terming it “unfeasible”, the Indian Academy of Sciences (IASc) had slammed ICMR on July 5 for its claims that the indigenous vaccine would be launched by August 15.

The top science institute said that this timeline has “raised unrealistic hope and expectations in the minds of our citizens”.

Also read | Passed mandated protocols, animal testing and now in clinical development stage: Bharat Biotech's Dr Krishna Ella

The Union Science Ministry also issued a statement saying six Indian companies are currently working on a vaccine for COVID-19, but none of these are likely to be ready for mass use before 2021.

The statement titled ‘Indigenous Indian Covid-19 vaccines in the global race to end the pandemic’ by Dr TV Venkateswaran, a scientist with the department, was later backtracked by removing portions about the 2021 timeline.

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Moneycontrol News
first published: Jul 6, 2020 09:25 am
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