‘Next two weeks critical for India’

Vaccine for coronavirus may take at least a year: CCMB chief

March 16, 2020 10:46 pm | Updated 10:46 pm IST - HYDERABAD

CSIR-CCMB director Rakesh Mishra

CSIR-CCMB director Rakesh Mishra

There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19, having originated from China, is very different from what is prevalent in Europe, West Asia or United States of America. “There is nothing to indicate it is a less virulent strain, looking at the pattern. Hence, it becomes all the more crucial to control spread of the virus in the community in the next couple of weeks, before it affects large sections of population,” said Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) Director Rakesh Mishra on Monday.

There is no scientific basis to claim that the coronavirus will vanish once summer sets in and a vaccine is a long way off. “Summer will bring in more heat and dryness to that extent the cough droplets may evaporate but the virus can spread indoors — inside cinemas, malls — and wherever there is dampness. There is a good chance it could help but we should not depend on weather alone,” he explained.

Isolation necessary

Therefore, rather than expect some quick remedies, the populace should brace for two weeks of isolating themselves from community gatherings, avoiding travel and practising personal hygiene like washing hands often. “Virus is not the issue as most will recover. We need to break the fast spread to thousands of people and though they too will recover, it will be difficult for the system to tackle large numbers,” said Dr. Mishra

“Central government and scientific heads have decided the next fortnight is going to be crucial in halting the spread of the contagion because even if a virus it is not fatal but a sudden rise in the number of sick people could put the entire healthcare machinery under strain,” he said, in an exclusive interaction.

Top scientists from various research institutes have been interacting with principal scientific adviser K. Vijayaraghavan through video-conferencing in the past few days to deliberate on the steps to be taken to tackle the crisis and on pushing forward the research and development processes with the help of the private sector, he stated.

“A combination of drugs can be tried to tackle any virus, but it comes with the risk of toxicity and uncertainty of benefits. However, a vaccine for coronavirus is many months away and could take at least a year,” said the director.

The CCMB has not banned any visitors as such to its facility but has halted international travel of scientists and non-essential travel. Large gatherings are a no-no and staff have been sensitised about the precautions.

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