The new Vaccine Hunt for SARS- CoV2
Pandemics have played role in development of robust health infrastructure and paved way to landmark researches. At present when the whole world is devastated by the COVID19/ SARS-CoV2 pandemic, several countries are battling to cope with the available resources and health infrastructure. Also, the COVID19 vaccine race has picked its pace.
What is a Vaccine ?
A biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity is termed as vaccine. It consists of an agent which resembles disease causing microorganism in weakened or killed forms or its toxins or surface proteins. Vaccines acts by training and preparing the body’s natural defenses, the immune system to recognize and fight off the pathogenic organism they target. If the body is exposed to those disease-causing pathogen later, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing disease.
Development of New Vaccine
Development of a new vaccine involves several stages. It involves: Exploratory stage, Pre-clinical stage, Clinical development, Regulatory review and approval, Manufacturing and Quality control. A three-phase process is involved in clinical development. During Phase I, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine. In Phase II, several hundreds of subjects undergo the clinical study and vaccine is given to people who have characteristics similar to those for whom it is intended. In Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety. Phase IV of trial is done as post marketing surveillance.
Vaccines are made in batches called lots. Manufacturers must test all the lots to makes sure of the safety, purity and potency. The lots are released only after reviewing the safety and quality.
The COVID19 Vaccine
As per the data from WHO, there are currently over 169 COVID-19 vaccine candidates under development, with 26 of these in the human trial phase. The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is a groundbreaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It brings brings together governments, scientists, businesses, civil society, and philanthropists and global health organizations. When a safe and effectiveness is established, COVAX (led by WHO, GAVI and CEPI) shall facilitate the equitable access and distribution to protect people in all countries. It is said that people most at risk will be prioritized. COVAX will act as a platform that will support the research, development and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, and negotiate their pricing. All participating countries, regardless of income levels, will have equal access once they are developed. The initial aim is to have 2 billion doses available by the end of 2021, aiming to protect high risk and vulnerable people, as well as frontline healthcare workers.
Role of India in Research and Production
Indian drug companies are major manufacturers of vaccine worldwide. Even with COVID19, Indian manufacturers are in the forefront of vaccine race. The Serum Institute of India in Pune which is the the world’s largest vaccine maker has an agreement to manufacture one billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by scientists at the University of Oxford, UK, and UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca if it is approved for use. The vaccine is currently undergoing phase III clinical trials in Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States to test its effectiveness.
COVAXINTM – India‘s First indigenous COVID-19 Vaccine
It is being developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (NIV). As per reports it is under Phase 2 of the clinical trials.
Sputnik V – The Russian COVID19 vaccine
On August 11, 2020 the Russian Ministry of Health announced and claimed the first registered vaccine in market. They are based on adenovirus vectors and Russia has claimed its safety as the use of human adenoviruses as vectors is considered safe because these viruses, which cause the common cold, are not novel and have been around for thousands of years. Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of the vaccine have been completed and it is reported that all the volunteers are feeling well, no unforeseen or unwanted side effects were observed. The news agency ANI quoted a government official as saying that an expert panel of Drugs Controller General (DCGI) has directed pharma giant Dr Reddy’s Laboratories to submit a revised protocol for performing phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine (Sputnik V) in India.
Challenges in distribution
In a country like India, distribution is not an easy task. To cater the population it will take huge investments in procuring, storing and training the health care staff to administer the vaccine. Time needed for covering all the citizens also adds up to the list of challenges.
While the pandemic has devastated several lives and livelihood of many, vaccine is a ray of hope to control further damages. May the world recover from the current pandemic soon. Also, let us salute the frontline health workers and scientists who are constantly engaged in saving lives and struggling to gift the normalcy back.