Global Race for Covid-19 Vaccine – India’s role and contributions

Corona Virus (COVID-19) outbreak came as a nightmare for the human civilization, originating from the Wuhan province of China; it has taken so many lives across the world.  Accidentally or intentionally it spread over the world can be a matter of debate, but the hard reality is, COVID-19 outbreak is the deadliest pandemic that the modern-day history has ever witnessed. As there is no vaccination available for this deadly virus hence social distancing and country wide lockdowns are the only remedies the world can think of as on date. Unfortunately there is hardly any country that is untouched by this fatal virus.

Most of the countries are in lockdown to avoid community spread of the virus & it technically has stopped the growth cycle of the world. Manufacturing units are not able to produce goods, service industry is not able to provide their services, tourism & hotel industry have fully ceased their functions due to travel ban, exports are banned & trades are facing a huge losses. But lockdown can’t be the name of the game for a long time as it is not a permanent solution.

The effects of lockdown have deeply shaken the world economy & if the experts are to be believed, world economy has already gone towards recession & if the same situation will continued then we will surely witness the horrible times where the world economy will enter very turbulent times losing a good percentage of global GDP some estimate say up to 10 % or more.

The need of the hour is the required vaccine for COVID-19 as there are 2,234,911 confirmed COVID-19 patients worldwide (as of now) with a death toll of 258,481 & increasing with each passing minute. Western countries are severe victims of the disease, where the statistics are really alarming:

  • In Europe there are 2,225,356 active COVID-19 patients with 2, 58,372 deaths as of now.
  • Spain, Italy and now even UK have faced the worst hit as of now.
  • In Spain there are 250,561 total COVID-19 patients with 25,613 deaths.
  • Italy faces the same fate with 213,013 active cases of Corona Virus which has taken 29,315 innocent lives as of now.
  • U.S the most powerful nation in the world has also unfortunately not able to safe its citizens from this pandemic & there 1,237,761 COVID-19 patients in the U.S itself with a death toll is as high as 72,275.

The scientist’s all over the world are working round the clock to develop the COVID-19 vaccine. Countries like U.S, Britain, Germany, China are in wartime readiness to invent or develop the vaccine. World’s giant manufacturing companies in the field of Pharmaceuticals like Merck & Co (U.S. based company), GlaxoSmithKine (British Company), Pfizer (U.S. based company), Sanofi (French company) & others are also contributing to their level best in this mega event, though they all are still in the pre-clinical stage only to develop the vaccine.

In Britain, Oxford University is conducting human trials on some volunteers; they have developed a vaccine based on a virus found in Chimpanzees which is similar to Corona Virus.

Germany got a green signal from the German regulatory body PEI, for a human trial of the vaccine developed by German firm Biontech.

U.S. on the other hand tried to cure the COVID-19 patients using AZT (AIDS drugs) on its 300 patients & got a positive outcome but soon after this the U.S. FDA ordered to stop this controversial trial due to lack of safety measures but allowed its use for emergency purpose. U.S. pharma companies are trying to develop the vaccine. The projects will be monitored by Dr. Anthony Fauci. The vaccine is expected to come out within next 1 year but after developing also it will not be an easy task to clear parameters of set by US.FDA & get a go ahead as FDA has its own complexity/technicality & protocols to follow within its board.

China is under tremendous pressure from the world community because of its irresponsible behavior in the initial stage of Corona Virus spread and for its handling of world’s questions and investigation on its Wuhan province, the birthplace of this virus from where it has travelled worldwide. Serious allegations are being put on China for not allowing scientists from other countries to visit its Wuhan lab & for not sharing the full information about this deadly virus with rest of the world & W.H.O. There are many conspiracy theories about China, like – Corona Virus was developed to be used as a bioweapon & the country has deliberately allowed its spread across the world to affect the world trade. But let’s not focus on the conspiracy theories & let’s see what China is doing to counter this pandemic.

Beijing now has approved a COVID-19 vaccine for human trial. A vaccine developed by its military backed Academy of Military Medical Sciences & Hongkong listed biotech firm CanSino Bio.

Which country will first win this battle, only time can answer this question? But the major question arises that, whichever country may end up inventing or developing the vaccine, will it be in the reach of the poor or the middle class society?

The next question that arises is about the mass production of the vaccine, will the poor third world countries be able to afford it? These are some very serious & uncomfortable questions which lie in front of the world.

While all these humping-jumping is going on in the world’s developed countries, a new rising power of world namely India is silently working on the same vaccine without drawing anyone’s attention. A country with 1.3 billion population is currently under a prolonged lockdown to avoid community transmission. Human history has never witnessed such a large-scale lockdown where 1.3 billion population of any country are locked in their homes.

India has the largest number of pharma companies in the world; it is also running several projects monitored by ICMR to fight the world’s deadliest pandemic. The Serum Institute in Pune came as a ray of hope for the mankind in India. It is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world and is all set to start its vaccine production in collaboration with Oxford University & US-based biotech company Codagenix, by end of May 2020. Serum Institute produces 1.5 billion doses & immunizes over 65% of the children worldwide. In an interview, Adar Poonawala (CEO of Serum Institute), the son of Cyrus Poonawala the founder of the Organization said that, “Our facility is already equipped to make this COVID-19 vaccine & we have dedicated the same towards developing the vaccine”. He also added that he is taking the risk of initiating production even before the vaccine has reached advanced clinical trials in the hope that when the trials are successful, they will have the first batch of doses ready for use by September to October this year.  

This decision was taken to have a jump-start on manufacturing of the vaccine, so that the drug is available for distribution right after the clinical trials are declared successful, though the Institute is confident enough about the usage of the vaccine in terms of safety of use. They are about to conduct a human trial in India in May 2020 itself & are very much hopeful about its outcome. In the meanwhile they are developing the recombinant BCG vaccine shots to reduce the severity of COVID-19 in India, with the help of India’s DBT (Department of Biotechnology, a government organization), and they are going to do the human trial of this BCG drug this month (May 2020) only. As per the company’s claim, this drug is very safe as it is used to vaccinate the newborn babies in India & the company exports the same in more than 100 countries.

Serum Institute is aiming to produce 4-5 million doses per month following which it will scale up the production to 10 million doses per moth if everything goes smooth. They are also aiming towards 20-40 million doses by September-October this year. An important thing to remember here is that to develop any vaccine it takes at least 5 years & we don’t have that much of time looking at the present situation of this pandemic hence it’s a race against time. 

The organization has invested a huge amount of money risking its financial security in case the outcome is negative. The organization has also stopped its several profit-making projects to invest in this vaccine, of course on humanitarian ground. Mr. Poonawala, the CEO of Serum Institute has informed the media that, his organization will not treat this vaccine as a money-making business & has decided to sell the possible vaccine an approximate cost of $13.20 per dose i.e. Rs. 1000 (Indian currency) which is nothing less than a boon for the poor, even the developing countries, especially the third world countries.

Since the company is the largest manufacturer of vaccines worldwide hence mass production of the vaccine should not be a great challenge for the organization. Though their first focus will be India, but their aim is to deliver the vaccine to as many countries are possible.

World needs to be reminded in tough time India has sent medicines to 120 countries in the world and counting, rightly it is said India is the pharmacy of the world as today 90% of the affordable medicines across the globe comes or originate from India.

This is the time for India to take a higher role and reduce dependence of international bodies like FDA. When you have to bother about the health of 1.3 billion people and not counts thousand of dead the time has come to constitute your own FDA or upgrade ICMR and MCA to a level stature of FDA.

It’s a complex situations but not impossible, and as it is rightly said, “necessity is the mother of invention”!

For more articles stay tuned to for regular updates

Story Conceived & written by

Meghna Peer Co-Founder & Chief Editor & Chief Editor Insourcing Multiplier

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *