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Science ministry says COVID-19 vaccine unlikely before 2021, but retracts later

The Science and Technology ministry edited a press release to remove a sentence that suggested a vaccine against COVID-19 is "unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021".

July 06, 2020 / 09:52 PM IST

The Union Ministry of Science and Technology on July 5 retracted its statement suggesting a COVID-19 vaccine is unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021, moments after it was published on the Press Information Bureau (PIB) website.

The ministry edited a release on the 'Indigenous Indian Covid-19 vaccines in the global race to end the pandemic' by Dr TV Venkateswaran on the PIB website.

Before being edited, the statement stated that along with the two Indian vaccine candidates, Covaxin and ZyCov-D, 11 of the 140 candidates worldwide have entered the human trials stage and none of these is likely to be ready for mass use before 2021.

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The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had claimed it aims to launch the indigenous COVID-19 vaccine by August 15.


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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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.

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

ICMR and Bharat Biotech, a private pharmaceutical company, said that they had envisaged the vaccine to be launched 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.

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.

However, ICMR has since claimed that it only aims to complete the COVID-19 vaccine’s clinical trials as soon as possible, and August 15 is now a deadline.

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Moneycontrol News
first published: Jul 6, 2020 10:37 am
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