Coronavirus | Commercial vaccine will take at least 12 months, say officials

It will first be made available to vulnerable groups.

Updated - July 11, 2020 08:39 am IST

Published - July 10, 2020 07:45 pm IST - New Delhi:

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

A novel coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) vaccine will take at least 12 months to be commercially available and a realistic deadline for it would be some time next year, a group of government officials informed the Parliamentary Panel on Science and Technology headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh at a meeting held in the Parliament House complex on Friday.

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This is contrary to the letter sent out by Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr. Balram Bhargava, exhorting institutions involved in the Covaxin trial to ready the vaccine for “public health use by August 15”. The ICMR backtracked from this date the next day.

The meeting was attended by Principal Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister K. VijayRaghavan. Officials from the Department of Biotechnology, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research deposed during the meeting.

‘Asked pointedly’

“We asked them pointedly about the timeline for developing the vaccine to which the officials said that it can take a minimum of 12 months, if all goes well. It is an optimistic estimate,” a member who attended the meeting said. The officials also indicated that even when the vaccine is developed, it will first be made available to the vulnerable groups before opening it for public use.

NIMS flooded with volunteering requests for Covaxin trials

Mr. VijayRaghavan at a press conference held on May 28 had said, “Preclinical studies [for the vaccine] are likely to be completed by October, after which it is likely to move on to human trials.”

There are five promising candidate vaccines from India, including Covaxin from Bharat Biotech and ZyCOV-D from Zydus Cadilla, which were cleared by the Drug Controller General of India for early human trials.

Chinese imports

During the deliberations, it was pointed out to the committee that India’s pharma industry is heavily dependent on imports from China. “We were told that our pharma supply chains are dependent on Chinese imports. In the current situation between the two countries, this dependency could prove expensive. Medical security is as important as defence security,” another member said.

Covaxin trial to start at Belagavi hospital

Patanjali’s Coronil, which was briefly marketed as a cure for the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus, also came up for discussion, but officials refused to comment on the subject saying that it did not come under their purview, sources said.

Only seven out of the 30 members, including the Chairman of the Committee Jairam Ramesh, could attend the meeting. Mr. Ramesh tweeted, “Our Parliamentary Standing Committee is having a most informative and useful meeting with @DBTIndia @IndiaDST @CSIR_IND & @PrinSciAdvGoI on the issue of Science & Technology & COVID-19. Too bad we are not allowed to have virtual meetings so that more MPs could have participated!”

Mr. Ramesh had earlier written to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, requesting him to allow a virtual meeting of the committee saying that he was doubtful if there would be enough members to fulfil a “quorum”.

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