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Opinion | Is wait for a COVID vaccine over?

In India, three vaccines are in the clinical trial stage. Bharat Biotech and Cadila Healthcare are conducting Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials on locally developed vaccine candidates, while Pune-based Serum Institute is doing Phase 3 trialsfor Oxford University’s vaccine candidate developed in UK.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Updated on: August 12, 2020 15:50 IST
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Is wait for a COVID vaccine over?

The announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin about the launch of the world’s first COVID vaccine has come as a welcome news, tinged with some uncertainties about its efficacy. This good news comes at a time when the pandemic is spreading like wildfire in countries like the US, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. So far, the pandemic has infected 2.05 crore causing nearly 7.5 lakh deaths. USA leads the list with 53.05 lakhs cases and more than 167,000 deaths. Brazil comes second with 31.12  lakhs and more than one lakh deaths. India is third in this list with 23.3 lakh cases and more than 46,000 deaths. The scale of the pandemic is, indeed, frightening.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video meeting with chief ministers of ten states where the spread of the pandemic is alarming. Modi asked the chief ministers of Bihar, Gujarat, UP, West Bengal and Telangana to ramp up testing on a war footing, work hard on containing the pandemic in hot spots and ensure contact-tracing within 72 hours of people who were close to infected persons. 

These ten states account for 80 percent of COVID cases in India at the moment.

Modi asked the chief ministers to reduce the fatality rate to one percent, which would mean success in detecting infections early and ensuring timely treatment. 

On Tuesday, there was a spike of 60,963 fresh COVID cases and 834 deaths reported in India. 

Total COVID case tally has gone up to 23,29,639, out of which 6,43,948 were active cases and 16,39,600 people recovered. 

Total death tally stands at 46,091. A huge 2.60 crore samples were taken across the country, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research. Out of these, 7,33,449 samples were tested on Tuesday alone, indicating the scale of testing that is being carried out across India. 

In spite of these positive indicators, India is still not out of the woods. People are impatiently waiting for a successful vaccine to be introduced so that the pandemic can be controlled. 

The Russian President has said that his health ministry has given regulatory approval to the Sputnik V vaccine, though it has not completed the final trials. Putin claimed that one of his daughters has taken the vaccine and felt good afterward. 

Sistema, a Russian business conglomerate, will put the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, into mass production by the end of this year. Doctors and teachers will be vaccinated from this month’s end, and mass roll-out is expected to begin in Russia by October. 

If Putin’s claims prove true, and if WHO approves this vaccine, it will come as a big relief to the entire world. WHO believes that the Russians seem to be in a hurry as the final trials, involving thousands of people, are yet to take place. 

Already, the Association of Clinical Trials Organisations, a body representing the world’s top drugmakers in Russia, has written to the Health Ministry to postpone approval till the final trials are successfully completed. 

The organization has said that less than 100 people have been given the vaccine till now and therefore, mass vaccination could be hazardous. 

Work is going on at least 160 vaccines across the world, mostly in US, UK, Israel and China. 

In India, three vaccines are in the clinical trial stage. Bharat Biotech and Cadila Healthcare are conducting Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials on locally developed vaccine candidates, while Pune-based Serum Institute is doing Phase 3 trials for Oxford University’s vaccine candidate developed in UK.

At present, 19 vaccines across the world are undergoing Phase 1 trial, 12 vaccines are in the Phase 2 trial, and five vaccines are in the Phase 3 trial. 

Five vaccines have entered the final trial stage and the preliminary results are expected only in October. 

The Indian government, through its national expert committee on vaccine administration, headed by Dr. V K Paul, Member, Niti Aayog, is in touch with other countries. The committee includes the health secretary, foreign secretary, biotechnology department secretary, and chiefs of ICMR and AIIMS. 

The government has maintained that once an effective vaccine is available anywhere throughout the world, efforts will be made to procure them and make it available to the people. 

Let us hope that the wait for an effective vaccine will end soon and the pandemic will be brought under control.

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