Currently, scientists, health researchers and drugmakers all over the world are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine against coronavirus.

New Delhi: The world at large pins hopes that vaccines will be the next big thing to prevent the increasing curve of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2. Currently, scientists, health researchers and drugmakers all over the world are racing to create one – but how long it will take to come to the fore is a curious question; by what time the entire population of India will get access to COVID-19 vaccine?, where do we stand in COVID-19 vaccine development? All these aspects were brought to discussion during Episode-9 of the HEAL-Thy Samvaad, organised by the ‘Healthcare Advocacy Group’ – HEAL Foundation in association with ICCIDD on 15th October 2020.

Experts are cautiously optimistic that we may, perhaps, get a vaccine by March next year, if everything goes as planned. Worldwide, about 40 vaccine candidates are in the race of vaccination. In India, 3 vaccines are in different stages of clinical trials. However, the COVID-19 crisis requires accelerated pathways for vaccine development. Proven success factors of H1N1 and Ebola have turned out as guiding principles in COVID-19 vaccine development. Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has asserted that 400 million vaccines will be made available by next year.

“India may get COVID-19 vaccine by March 2021 provided the regulators signal with the processes fast as multiple manufacturers are working on it. India is heading fast towards vaccine development as two manufacturers are already in phase-3 trial and one in the phase-2 trial, while more players are joining the race. Usually, vaccine development takes 8-10 years, but this is the third time we are able to produce this one in a short time. The WHO has also taken initiative to make the process fast and easy, ” Dr Suresh Jadav, Executive Director, Serum Institute of India, Pvt Ltd., Pune, said while addressing India Vaccine Accessibility e-Summit at HEAL-Thy Samvaad and throwing light on – where do we stand in COVID-19 vaccine development.

“We can produce 700-800 million vaccine dosages every year once the things are streamlined. Although 55 per cent of the population is below 50 years of age, yet, as per the availability of vaccines, healthcare workers should get the vaccines first, then people over 60 years of age with comorbidities followed by the rest of the populace. As far as Serum Institute is concerned, we will be ready with 60-70 million dosages of vaccines by December 2020, but that will come in the market in 2021 after the clearance of licencing. Thereafter, we will produce more and more dosages by the permission of the government,” added Dr Jadav.

Speaking on the accessibility conundrum of COVID-19 vaccine in HEAL-Thy Samvaad, Dr J L Meena, Joint Director, NHA, said, “Of course, to have a check on the upsurge of COVID-19 infection, the vaccine is quintessential. However, the biggest challenge lies in its accessibility. The mechanism of the supply chain should also be redefined so that the distribution turns out equitably. For this, we need to prioritise the accessibility depending upon the vulnerability of the populace and take some strong action within the time limit. Effective governance is also required to carry out the judicious accessibility of the vaccine, which we have already.”

Recently, while attending an online WHO question-and-answer session, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization, reiterated that the WHO’s stance against allowing the virus to spread unchecked to reach herd immunity, emphasizing that the concept should be discussed only within the context of a vaccine.

Adding further, she said, “Once we have a vaccine, we can aim to have population immunity – herd immunity – because you’ll need to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of people, have them protected, to really break the transmission.”

Elaborating on the status of the vaccine development during HEAL-Thy Samvaad, Mr Samir Deb, pharmaceutical professional, consultant vaccine & public affairs consultant, South East Asia, said, “Vaccine development is a burning issue across the world now. Hopefully, 20-25 crore population will get a vaccine next year. Ensuring accessibility for 80 per cent of the population is a huge task indeed.”

By Times Now Digital

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