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COVID-19 vaccine unlikely before 2021, says science ministry; backtracks later

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New Delhi, July 05: The Ministry of Science and Technology on Sunday said that none of the Covid-19 vaccines may be ready for mass use before 2021. The statement is in contrast to ICMR's claim that said it "envisages to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by August 15, 2020, after completion of all clinical trials".

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Moments after, the statement was edited, and the line stating 'vaccines are unlikely to be ready before 2021,' was removed.

Compounds that halt reproduction of COVID-19 virus identified

The Drug Controller General of India's nod to conduct human trials for Indian COVID-19 vaccine candidates COVAXIN and ZyCov-D mark the "beginning of the end" of the coronavirus pandemic, says an article by a scientist with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The announcement of COVAXIN by Bharat Biotech and ZyCov-D by Zydus Cadila is the "silver line in the dark clouds", the article by T V Venkateswaran, who is a scientist with Vigyan Prasar, said.

"Now the nod given by the Drug Controller General of India, CDSCO (the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation) for the conduct of the human trial for the vaccines, marks the beginning of the end," the article stated.

In the past years, India has emerged as a significant vaccine manufacturing hub and Indian manufacturers account for 60 per cent of vaccine supplies made to UNICEF.

"The vaccine for the novel coronavirus may be developed anywhere in the world, but without Indian manufacturers involved the production of required quantities is not going to be feasible," the article said.

It said at the global level, more than 140 candidate vaccines are under various stages of development. The article stated that along with the two Indian vaccines, COVAXIN and ZyCov-D, the world over, 11 out of 140 vaccine candidates have entered human trials.

One of the leading candidates is AZD1222 developed by the Jenner Institute of University of Oxford and licenced to AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge, England.

The MRNA-1273 vaccine developed by the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Washington, and taken up for production by US-based Moderna pharmaceutical, is just a step behind, the article states.

Both these firms have already inked an agreement with Indian manufacturers for production of the COVID-19 vaccines, it said. Indian institutions are also engaged in research and development for the development of vaccines in India.

The primary scientific inputs are coming from institutions like the ICMR, the National Institute of Virology, the CSIR and the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, and six Indian companies are working on a vaccine for COVID-19.

Aiming to launch an indigenous COVID-19 vaccine by August 15, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had written to select medical institutions and hospitals to fast-track clinical trial approvals for the vaccine candidate COVAXIN being developed in collaboration with Bharat Biotech.

Experts had also cautioned against rushing the process for developing a COVID-19 vaccine and stressed that it is acting in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential.

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