The race to make a vaccine against the virus has enrolled in politics. With the world, third-worst hit rate in this pandemic, India’s need is urgent. The claims of when a vaccine will be ready are howling everywhere. With more than 50,000 new cases everyday India has approached 2.5 million marks. Yet, India has entered it unlock 3 phases easing further restrictions. The rise in numbers and the treat to another serious lockdown has people worried. The vaccine will give consolation to people as it will serve as a reassuring promise of normal. In July, two Indian vaccine candidates initiated a phase 1 human trial. Doses will be administered to volunteer spread over a dozen sites. The Indian government says it feels it has the moral imperative to develop a vaccine. Numerous major pharmaceutical brands are eager to oblige.
“60% of the vaccine supply in the world whether it be Africa, Europe, or Southeast Asia- anywhere in the world is of Indian origin. So India is perceived and is an important player in the production of the vaccine supply for the world” – Balram Bhargava (Indian Council of Medical Research)
This pressure, however, took a political turn, top Indian medical research body, in a letter to trial sites, said that ‘the trials should be expedited and the vaccine should be ready to launch by the end of August’. This raised serious concern on whether these extraordinarily expedited trials will be safe and ethical. The move was seen by critics as a way for the Indian prime minister to make a dramatic announcement in his Independence Day speech rallying on a cry that India can be self-reliant. Well, this is exactly what happened. Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister has assured his citizens that India is in the process of developing a vaccine against the coronavirus. Said that 3 vaccines are currently under different stages of development in India.
“Every human being currently living on this planet has one constant question in his mind- when will the vaccine be ready? But want to tell you, my countryman, the scientist and medical communities of our country are working day and night in the laboratory to find a vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic. And in India, not just one, not just two, three vaccines are being processed in three different stages. Once the nod from scientists has been given, it will be produced in a very large amount as the roadmap for production, delivery, and distribution as soon as possible is also been sort out” – PM Modi (Independence day speech)
But after pressure from the medical community, the government body clarified that no compromise will be made on the safety and the deadline was simply to expedite the trial and cut through red ticks. In reality, though, the researcher state that it might take close to a year for the first two phases of the Indian vaccine trial to be completed. So far there has been no vaccine that has gone through such a rapid development cycle. The earliest any vaccine could get would at least take years to come and we do not have any vaccine at our hand that promises us to be mass-produced within two months. Only oxford candidate, AstraZeneca had even attempted to get the serum institute to start producing its vaccine which is going through phase 3 currently. But with the close to a 5th of the world’s population, India is seen as crucial to test the efficacy of any COVID-19 vaccine. The rapidly rising burden of disease and the intent to be self-reliant raises the stakes even further.
With all this, even a question is raised on whether India could win the race for vaccine production. Even though there is no definitive way to truly remark on it but India wants to. As we have seen in the report the Indian government, as well as the top medical research body, says that India has the moral duty to provide this vaccine to the world because of its massive manufacturing capacity as well as the massive research capacity over here in India. We also have the Prime Minister, through the cause of the pandemic emphasizing that India must be self-reliant, but experts suggest that it could take as long as the first quarter or even the second quarter of next year to finish the trials that have started in India last month. Even though India is well in the race, perhaps may not deliver as quickly as the world expects from it.
Regardless of the deadline or time and whether India wins, the fact that India will still hopefully be the main producer of the final vaccine when it comes out. It could be a very safe assumption, just late last week we saw the start of phase 2 and phase 3 trial of the oxford vaccine by manufacture which turns out to be the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company. Even if we look beyond this manufacturing and research capacity, the volume of the population compared to China to scale up any important global vaccine candidate is in the front race of this vaccine development. In past vaccine development, it has been found that any vaccine with efficacy issues in the global norm will not work as expected from it. These add up to the reason why India and trials in India can be very important.
Many have pondered how India can relax its restriction after imposing such serious lockdown during the initial stage and not during the high surge. The government in India has continued through the cause of the pandemic, what it called its unlock phase, is to emphasis that we have to learn to live with the virus, that we cannot slow down the economy any longer, and we must forge on ahead as well as take precautions alongside. And even though the burden of the disease is rising rapidly, we have crossed the 2.5 million mark in a blink of an eye but India is underlining the recovery rate which is about 71% and scaling up and high hit city such as Delhi have above 75 %. Mortality is below 2% and this is what is making India believe that it can handle the pandemic. Things are taking a turn up and down for India with all the issues on its borders to its attraction inside. We hope to find a vaccine soon enough that can be reliable enough to stop its spread and hopefully turn our life normal.