Coronavirus: India hunts for best vaccine candidate across the world to invest in
India is looking for successfully performing covid-19 vaccine candidate all across the world to strike a deal with the best ones. So far, India’s list of possible acquisitions include the under-trail candidates being developed by UK’s Oxford-AstraZeneca and United States’s Moderna-NIAID. Besides, the government is also closely observing the progress of vaccine candidates being developed at home by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila. Also, Pune-based pharma company Serum Institute of India (SII) has already signed a production and clinical trials deal with AstraZeneca for the AZD1222 vaccine, which has so far been tested in the most number of people.
One of the senior government officials involved in the country’s vaccine strategy said that a group of experts supervising the process would hold a crucial meeting in this regard on Monday with the heads of pharmaceutical companies involved in the development of some of the candidates. The meeting, which was to be headed by Niti Aayog’s VK Paul and co-chaired by Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, had on its main agenda to
discuss the procurement processes and pricing in detail with the heads of several pharma firms. Adar C Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, Krishna Ella, MD of Bharat Biotech, and Pankaj R Patel, chairman of Zydus Cadila, were believed to be part of the meeting.
According to one of the officials who was aware about the developments, India has been waiting for trial data results for the Russian candidate, which last week announced to be the first coronavirus vaccine in the world to get an approval. But the Russian vaccine is viewed with a bit of suspicion by medical community as it received approval without going through the mandatory phase-III human trial. “For now, we are looking at the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is in co-production with Serum Institute of India for the Indian market, and the Moderna vaccine, which has also entered phase 3 trails,” said the official, who prefers to remain anonymous.
Another official, who also refused to be named given the sensitivity of the matter, said, “There is no fixed time line as not all volunteers are given a shot in a single go. The doses are given in batches; once all the doses are administered then only we will be able to run blood tests and analyse the changes. The data analysis will take at least 2-3 weeks and I would say anything concrete can’t be said before a month about the safety of the vaccine candidate. However, there was no immediate adverse reaction observed.”
An approved vaccine generally takes 10-12 years before being certified for use. But due to the unprecedented times dawned upon humanity by the sudden outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, this entire process has to be rounded-up in 10-12 months or even lesser. This turned the entire Covid-19 vaccination process into a huge gamble.
So far there are about 29 vaccines in clinical trials stage – a multi-step process which focuses on safety and effectiveness. Besides, there are 138 more vaccines which are in pre-clinical phases, which includes development and animal trials. The Covid-19 pandemic in mere less than nine months has infected 21.7 million people around the world, since it first began spreading, out of which 770,000 people lost their lives due to the deadly contagion.
Dr Amita Jain, head, microbiology department, King George’s Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow, said: “A vaccine will be needed to check the disease spread but we don’t know when an effective vaccine be available for use even though all our efforts are being directed towards making it happen as soon as possible. A good vaccine is the most cost-effective way of preventing a disease.”
Indian government is banking on mainly four candidates to provide a successful Covid vaccine to the ailing India: Oxford-AstraZeneca (UK), Moderna-NIAID (US), Bharat Biotech-ICMR (India) and Zydus Cadila (India).