New Delhi: Even as scientists and drug makers all over the world race against time to find a safe vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, told an English daily that India’s first indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine, COVAXIN, could be available by the end of this year. Recently, it was reported that the Oxford’s COVID-19, dubbed Covishield in India, is likely to be the first shots available for Indians by the end of 2020 if trials succeed.
Apart from the COVAXIN jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and ICMR, the Zydus Cadila’ ZyCoV-D vaccine and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s candidate being produced by the Serum Institute of India are being tested across the country. According to the report, the government is considering an initial order of about 50 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccine for certain groups of people such as frontline workers and army personnel.
The Indian Health Minister, in an interview with Hindustan Times, said that the efficacy of the India-made vaccines, upon completion of trials, would be known by the end of the year. He also said the Oxford’s vaccine was already being processed on a parallel end to reduce the time required to market it.
According to the minister, the other two candidates from Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila would need at least an additional month for production and phased introduction in the market. The Health Minister also added the vaccines could be ‘ready to use’ by the first quarter of 2021 if trials succeed.
Dr Vardhan told HT that COVAXIN, an inactivated vaccine derived from a strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus isolated from NIV, Pune, could be available by the end of 2020, adding that the ICMR and Bharat Biotech had entered into an MoU which stated that priority would be given to provide the vaccine at an affordable and subsidised rate – should trials prove successful.
Reiterating that “test-track-treat” was the key strategy of the government to move forward in the fight against COVID-19, Dr Vardhan noted that India was home to the world’s vaccine manufacturing industrial base, providing two-thirds of childhood vaccines being used globally.
Meanwhile, Russia has expressed confidence in India’s ability to mass-produce its coronavirus vaccine, named ‘Sputnik V’, saying it is looking for collaboration. On August 11, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had become the first country in the world to give regulatory approval to the COVID-19 vaccine. Moscow said the vaccine developed by state-run Gamaleya institute will be tested on 40,000 people next week to assess its reliability.(Agencies)