NEW DELHI: India has identified at least six local vaccine candidates with 30 groups trying to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. Besides, around 10 drugs are being re-purposed for use in treatment of the disease and are under different stages of trials, the government said while also highlighting that it was working on guidelines to prioritise distribution of the vaccine once it is available.
Underlining efforts by the scientific community and pharmaceutical companies to develop and manufacture vaccines, drugs and diagnostic kits locally to combat Covid-19, the government said science was the key weapon in the battle against the pandemic which has infected over 5.6 million people worldwide and has claimed more than 3,55,000 lives to date.
The government also made it clear that a vaccine was not going to be available to everyone at once, besides taking time to develop. “A vaccine is not a switch that it will be available to everyone from Day 1. In this disease, everybody will need it. So, access is a big challenge,” principal scientific adviser K Vijayraghavan said on Thursday.
He said vaccine development currently took nearly 10 years, but the aim the world over was to find one for the coronavirus in a year and this has led to investments being ramped up along with the number of molecules under research. “We have to speed up regulatory processes, expand manufacturing capacities and build distribution systems. So, instead of $200-300 million, it will cost $2-3 billion,” Vijayraghavan said.
He said four categories of vaccines — mRNA vaccines, attenuated vaccines, inactivated vaccines and adjuvant vaccines — were being looked at currently. Some companies in India are at late pre-clinical stage. These will take time and in the meanwhile, there was no alternative to physical distancing and hand hygiene measures, he added.
Niti Aayog member (health) and head of the medical management committee on Covid-19, Dr V K Paul, said drugs like favipiravir, itolizumab, phytopharmaceutical (a plant-based drug), microbacterium W, convalescent plasma, arbidol, ACQH, HCQ, remdesivir and BCG vaccine were under various stages of trials in India.
The government said there were three lines of research and development. The first was indigenous efforts. The second was global collaborative measures where Indian organisations are taking a lead role and, third, Indian participation in global efforts. With such a large portfolio, followed by efforts at risk mitigation for manufacturing and stockpiling, success was better assured, it said.
Watch 30 groups in India trying to develop coronavirus vaccines: PSA Vijay Raghavan