The Ministry of Science and Technology on Sunday clarified that none of the coronavirus vaccine candidates, including India's Covaxin and ZyCov-D, are likely to be ready for public use before 2021. "Six Indian companies are working on a COVID-19 vaccine. Along with two Indian vaccines, COVAXIN and ZyCov-D, world over 11 out of 140 vaccine candidates are in human trials. None of these are likely to be ready for mass use before 2021," the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement.
The article was uploaded on the official website of the Press Information Bureau (PIB). The clarification from the ministry has come after backlash over ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava's letter to the 12 institutes selected for conducting human trials for Covaxin, asking them to expedite the human trials and announcing the August 15 deadline for the launch.
The ministry, however, said that the approval for human clinical trials for India's two COVID-19 vaccine candidates - COVAXIN and ZyCov-D - was the "beginning of the end" for the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 5.3 lakh people and infected over 11 million.
However, interestingly, PIB has withdrawn its statement and went on to delete the statement from its press release.
The press release said that there were more than 100 vaccine candidates in the world currently, of which 11 were in human trials. “None of these vaccines is unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021,” it added. The new press release does not mention this.
The article, authored by Dr TV Venkateswaran and originally published by Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology, dwelt on how these vaccines work.
The PIB published the article at 3.21pm under the head of Ministry of Science and Technology, attributing it to India Science Wire of Vigyan Prasar. Around 5.40pm, they had revised and republished the article.
Earlier today @PIB_India put out a press note in which it was clearly stated that “None of these vaccines is unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021”. Then when this was pointed out, the line was quietly deleted... https://t.co/vHZTfc1SM2 pic.twitter.com/a8GD8gFdSl— Padma Priya D (@priyakamal) July 5, 2020
On Saturday, the ICMR had issued a statement defending its plan to launch a COVID-19 vaccine by August 15 this year, stating that the letter was sent to ‘cut unnecessary red tape’ and that all global norms were being followed.
“The letter by DG-ICMR to investigators of the clinical trial sites was meant to cut unnecessary red tape, without bypassing any necessary process, and speed up recruitment of participants,” ICMR said.
“ICMR’s process is exactly in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track the vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential wherein human and animal trials can continue in parallel,” the ICMR statement added.
The vaccine ‘Covaxin’ is being developed in collaboration with Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL) and the Drugs Controller General of India has accorded permission to conduct phase 1 and 2 clinical trials.