Amid scepticism, Indian developer aims for Covid-19 vaccine by mid-August

Amid scepticism, Indian developer aims for Covid-19 vaccine by mid-August. (Photo courtesy: Yahoo India)

(, Jul04’20) – While all eyes are on the front-runner Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19, expected to be ready by the end of this year, an Indian developer has brought out a timeline to have one ready by mid-August, prompting skepticism among experts.

Earlier, in a letter to hospitals that had been selected for carrying out the clinical trials for a candidate vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech, the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) director general Balram Bhargava had said that “in view of public health emergency” and the “urgency to launch the vaccine”, all the stakeholders were being “strictly advised to fast track all approvals related to the initiation of the clinical trial, and ensure that the subject enrolment is initiated no later than Jul 7, 2020.”

And the ICMR had promised to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by Aug 15.

“Aug 15 is a completely unrealistic target. There is no vaccine that has become ready so fast. There are several processes involved, and even in the best case scenario, considering that we are in an emergency situation, the Aug 15 timeline seems totally unrealistic, if not entirely impossible,” the Jul 3 quoted Vineeta Bal, an immunologist and a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, as saying.

The report noted that the candidate vaccine, named Co-vaxine, developed by Bharat Biotech in association with Pune-based National Institute of Virology, had just been cleared for Phase-I and Phase-II trials by the Drug Controller General of India.

Usually, these trials take months, and have to be followed by phase-III trials, which is when volunteers are actually given the vaccine shots and their immune response to the disease is tracked. The clinical trials have to be followed by data analysis and verification, which usually needs to be published in a peer-reviewed journal before the vaccine is cleared for public use, the report noted.

However, Lokesh Sharma, Scientist, ICMR, has said: “It is not to be interpreted as a deadline. This is our aim, which depends on cooperation of institutes. If we are going to start work, we should do so with an aim and it should be of success. Our expectation and aim is that the trial will be complete. Anyway, the product is ready. Hence, we are going into trial. This is the DG’s personal concern. Hence, the letter.”


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