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Coronavirus vaccine update: Eyes on India as candidates race towards finish line

Coronavirus vaccine news update: Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said that the first doses of the vaccine should be administered to young people and health workers

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | July 31, 2020 | Updated 16:26 IST
Coronavirus vaccine update: Eyes on India as candidates race towards finish line
Coronavirus vaccine trials in India

All eyes are on India now as the largest manufacturer of vaccines gets its machines rolling. Serum Institute of India that is producing the frontrunner Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine has committed to producing 1 billion doses of the vaccine. CEO Adar Poonawalla had stated earlier that the company aims to offer these doses to low income countries.

Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has also underscored India's role in the development of a coronavirus vaccine. "India's private sector also has a very important role in being the world's leading manufacturer of vaccines. As effective covid-19 vaccines emerge from our research effort, this manufacturing capability is going to be very important," he said at the symposium on vaccines hosted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

He also said that Indo-US Vaccine Action Plan (VAP) convened an expert advisory committee to review coronavirus vaccine research and development in India. "Eleven vaccines were reviewed by a panel that provided recommendations for how these candidates might be further developed and assessed, and we look forward to continuing this involvement and supporting the vaccine R&D efforts," he said.

Also read: Coronavirus vaccine update: SII to change trial protocol; Russian candidate may be approved by Aug 12

High Commissioner of UK in India Philip Barton said in an interview to The Indian Express that while trials are on, Oxford University-AstraZeneca's candidate seems to be the most promising so far. "We don't know which vaccine is going to work as trials are still going on but the one that at the moment looks promising is the Oxford University vaccine which will be manufactured with the Serum Institute," he said.

He added that the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate would be made available on a global, equitable basis. "We are very clear, as is the Indian government, that this vaccine is for everybody. This is a global pandemic and vaccines must be for everybody," said Barton.

Speaking about distribution, Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw shared her views on who she thinks should be administered the COVID-19 vaccine first. "Who will receive the first supply of vaccines? Young people and health workers ought to get first priority. The elderly, those with comorbidities and children should not be exposed to the vaccine until safety risk is established," she said. She reasoned that since the vaccine development is very accelerated and hence the entire safety data would not be available to assess the risk of exposure of vulnerable population.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said, "We have fought the pandemic in full force. Two Indian companies have reached the clinical trial phase for Covid-19 vaccine. It is a matter of pride."

Also read: Coronavirus vaccine news update: India readies 5 sites for trials; Oxford, Pfizer advance to late-stage

Here are the latest developments from India and across the world:

Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine: The company said that they have received good data on their COVID-19 vaccine. "The vaccine development is progressing well. We have had good data so far. We need to show the efficacy in the clinical programme, but so far, so good," AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.  AstraZeneca has already reached deals with countries to make more than 2 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, and says it could be approved by the end of this year.

Johnson and Johnson: The company has begun trials of coronavirus vaccine after the study on monkeys showed its efficacy. The vaccine offered protection from infectious virus in one dose. According to the company, six out of the six monkeys that were administered the doses did not get any lung disease while five remained protected when exposed to coronavirus. Dr Paul Chief Scientific Officer of J&J said, "This gives us confidence that we can test a single-shot vaccine in this epidemic and learn whether it has a protective effect in humans." It has begun human trials in the US and Belgium.

Moderna: JP Morgan analyst Cory Kasimov said that the company's vaccine candidate is making good progress. Kasimov said, "We see the publication of Moderna's data in non-human primates (NHP) as supportive of the potential for mRNA-1273 (COVID-19 vaccine), adding to the other encouraging pieces of early evidence, including Phase 1 results. That said, how results in monkeys ultimately translate to humans and whether the lack of an apparent CD8 T-cell response is relevant (especially when other vaccine candidates have shown CD8 T-cell involvement) are two (of admittedly many) outstanding questions."

Also read: Coronavirus vaccine: Why Americans will pay lot more than Indians for COVID-19 vaccine

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