India has made significant headway in the efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine. However, experts are still cautious about the development of a COVID-19 vaccine globally. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while multiple vaccine candidates are in the works, one might never be actually found. He also urged people to follow basic protocols such as social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing. "A number of vaccines are now in Phase 3 clinical trials, and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there is no silver bullet at the moment, and there might never be. For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control: testing, isolating and treating patients, and tracing and quarantining their contacts," he said.
There are multiple coronavirus vaccine candidates in the Phase 3 of clinical trials including frontrunner Oxford University-AstraZeneca candidate, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech candidates. However, most drug makers are optimistic of a positive outcome by the end of the year.
Closer home, Pune-based Serum Institute of India that is producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine candidate has received approval from Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to conduct Phase 2 and 3 of human trials in India. According to reports, Serum Institute is likely to start trials in August-end at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) at Chandigarh. PGIMER is one of the selected sites where the COVID-19 vaccine candidate would be administered to 1,600 volunteers. The DCGI had asked the manufacturer to stretch out the sites across the country.
Dr Madhu Gupta, Professor at Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGI who is the principal investigator of the trials said that the protocol has been finalised and will be sent to the ethics committee for clearance before starting the trials. "We will assess the benefit and harm and get it approved from the institute," she said as mentioned in The Tribune.
Once the medical screening is complete, the volunteers would be selected. Volunteers must be above 18 years of age and must not have contracted COVID-19 in the past and no family members should have a history of coronavirus either. Gupta said that PGI has committed 250 participants. The duration of the trials would be six months.
Meanwhile, in Russia, the government has claimed to be ahead of global rivals such as the US and UK in the race to find a coronavirus vaccine. Russia has said that it would start production of one of its COVID-19 vaccine candidates by Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in September. "The results of the check-up clearly demonstrate an unmistakable immune response attained through the vaccination. No side effects or issues with the body of the volunteers were found," the Defence Ministry said. Russia said that another COVID-19 vaccine candidate by Vector State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology would go to production in November. "We expect to start production already in November this year. So, closer to the end of the year and the start of the next year we can talk about switching to vaccination at least for people from risk groups with a further switch to massive vaccination," said the institute's Director General Rinat Maksyutov.
Russia's sanitary watchdog chief Anna Popova said that she is confident the Russian vaccines would be absolutely safe and efficient. "I have no doubts that the vaccine that is to reach people will be absolutely safe and, of course, efficient," she said.