Since the virus outbreak in China, all eyes are on the most awaited Covid-19 vaccine offering a glimmer of hope. Abide by social distancing, wearing a mask, and frequent hand washing – until we have a vaccine. This new mantra amidst all misery has created hope in the hearts of many. We have to accept the “new normal” until we have a vaccine.
What is a Vaccine?
Vaccines, in a way, activate the immune system without the disease. Getting a particular vaccine is somewhat like having survived the disease once, without the health burden. Vaccines can be made with weakened viruses, inactivated viruses, and protein from a virus or even just the biological material (mRNA).
How Do Vaccines Provide Immunity?
Immunity is the body’s defense mechanism is to resist the effects of a microorganism. Immunity induced by a vaccine is weaker than that induced naturally after an infection. After you get a vaccine shot, your body will develop long-lasting antibodies that circulate in the blood. Such virus-specific antibodies will help to prevent severe disease. The vaccine will not prevent the entry of the virus into the body (infection), but it will prevent severe infection.
Scientists have gone from the discovery of the virus to more than 165 candidate vaccines in record time, with 27 vaccines already in clinical trials.
Challenges in Vaccine Development
- Laboratory development & Preclinical testing
- Large Clinical Trials
- New technology for production
- Availability: manufacturing millions of doses especially of a novel coronavirus
- Developing an integrated and fair plan for vaccine distribution
- Order of priority – health workers, elderly, and those with underlying conditions
- Logistic –storage temperature
- Resistance from the public – lack of awareness
- Supply to rural areas
- Multiple-dose may be needed
When Can We Expect A Vaccine And How Has Development Been Stepped Up?
Vaccine development normally takes years to complete, but the continuing crisis has prompted the multilateral system to accelerate the process. Regulatory approvals are up to speed but no important stages are skipped. This means that different tests of the vaccine are conducted in “parallel”.
The pandemic situation requires multiple activities and tests to be conducted at financial risk to stakeholders without knowing whether the vaccine candidate will be safe and effective.
Clinical Status of Vaccines Around the Globe
Research in India
The Indian government agency is working at lightning speed to test and approve an Indian origin COVID-19 vaccine. The government has permitted six Indian companies to develop vaccines against COVID-19. Recently, Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila were granted permission to start Phase I and II human clinical trials of their most advanced vaccines, named COVAXIN and ZyCoV-D respectively.
India Will Be The Mass Manufacturer of The Covid-19 Vaccine
India is known for its mass manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. Leading international bodies like the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to obtain their vaccines from India. Now is the time when India can definitely leverage its ability to mass-produce a Covid-19 vaccine whenever it is ready and also help reduce the price of these vaccines. Reasonable price provided by India`s mass production ability would be the only factor in assuring the Covid-19 vaccine’s access across the globe.
Serum Institute of India (SII) located in Pune has entered a manufacturing partnership with British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to produce and supply 1 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. These vaccines will be for India and middle- and low-income countries across the world (GAVI countries).
What Happens If You Choose Not To Get A Vaccine?
Firstly, you will not be protected from the deadly respiratory disease and may end up suffering from a severe infection. Secondly, refusal by many people might not get the country to herd immunity.
What Lies In The Future?
Even when a vaccine is introduced, we will have several months of significant infection or at least a risk of infection to take care of. This means that we may have to face more months under the threat of the novel coronavirus than we have already survived. If precautions are not taken and guidelines are not followed, there will continue to be more outbreaks, more deaths. The availability of the vaccine will be the slow start of the flattening of the curve. The total time taken to completely flatten the curve cannot be predicted, as it depends on awareness, accessibility, affordability, and adoption. With the world joining hands to find a vaccine for Covid-19, all eyes are on India, the powerhouse of vaccine manufacturing. It is a race between humans and the virus, rather than between countries or pharmaceutical companies.
Putting an end to this viral disaster with a vaccine has led to a global vaccine race to coherently extinguish Covid-19. Each week brings news on early success, low cost, fast track results, promising effects because of vaccine optimism. There is too much uncertainty that continues to be pondered upon. The vaccine won’t extinguish the disease itself but offer protection and immunity. It certainly will not immediately return life to “old normal”. The virus is too widespread but the vaccine could make Covid-19 easier to live with and prevent severe cases.
Finally, there seems to be a ray of hope amidst this tunnel of misery!
Dr. Anish Desai is a trained Clinical Pharmacologist and Pharmaceutical Physician with 3 decades of experience in Academia, Research, and Healthcare industry with proven leadership skills, strong business acumen, and a deep understanding of the Healthcare System, including Pharmaceutical, Nutraceutical & Medical device industry. He has been recognized for driving positive change, delivering solutions, developing talent, and nurturing strong relationships with external stakeholders. Holding Senior Management Position for the last 20 years and involved in strategic decision making. ‘IntelliMed Healthcare Solutions’ is a Healthcare startup launched by him with an intent to focus on strategic medical affairs for business growth, thereby infusing science into business. IntelliMed specializes in scientific, Clinical & medical support from conceptualization/Ideation to launch.
Dr. Sunaina Anand, Pharm. D is a Clinical Pharmacist. She currently serves as Medical Affairs Executive in IntelliMed Healthcare Solutions. She previously interned in Tata Memorial Hospital and Columbia Asia Hospital, Bengaluru.
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