A parliamentary panel was informed on Friday that a coronavirus vaccine is expected only by early next year. The presentations were made by the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the principal scientific adviser to the government before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Climate. The experts informed the panel of the government's coronavirus preparedness.
The panel was chaired by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, apart from six other members. It was conveyed to the panel that a coronavirus vaccine could only be available by early next year.
Meanwhile, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) had given approval to two companies to conduct human trials for their corona vaccine candidates. Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN was the first to be approved for trials, following which Zydus Cadila's ZyCoV-D received DCGI's nod. Both the companies are scheduled to start the trials for their COVID vaccine candidates soon.
Additionally, the Indian Council of Medical Research recently courted controversy after it sent a letter to 12 institutes to finish the trials for COVAXIN by August 15. After receiving severe backlash, the government stated that the "intent of the letter" was only to expedite the process. "The intent of the letter from DG, ICMR was to tell sites to fast-track it. We have indigenous candidates and we must not miss the bus. We need a vaccine today. If we go into making a vaccine by using conventional methods and bring a vaccine after two years, then it will be of no use. This was the spirit behind the letter," ICMR scientist Nivedita Gupta said.
The parliamentary committee was informed of the possible early next year timeline at the first meeting of the panel since the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25. Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said the delay in the resumption of parliamentary committee meetings was forced by circumstances beyond control. "I am glad that Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committees have resumed functioning, three and half months since the last sitting of Parliament on March 23rd," he wrote on Twitter.
Naidu said that the pandemic did cast a shadow on the working of these committees that function on the behalf of the parliament. He said that all possible measures were taken to enable the committee meetings by complying with the norms of social distancing, wearing of masks etc. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs is scheduled to meet on July 15.