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Fast-tracking COVID vaccine to cut red tape: ICMR defends August 15 launch date

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New Delhi, July 04: The Indian Council of Medical Research's (ICMR) on Saturday issued a clarification after a memo from the agency triggered a backlash for setting August 15 as a target for developing a coronavirus vaccine.

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In a statement, the ICMR said the letter sent by DG-ICMR to investigators of the clinical trial sites was "meant to cut unnecessary red tape, without bypassing any necessary process, and speed up recruitment of participants".

"Just as red tape was not allowed to become a hindrance in the fast-track approval of new indigenous testing kits or for introducing in the Indian market potential Covid-19 related drugs, the indigenous vaccine development process has also been sought to be insulated from slow file movement," the ICMR said in a statement.

"While issues raised in public domain from time-to-time by commentators are welcome, as they form an important part of feedback loop, the best of India's medical professionals and research scientists should not be second-guessed for their professionalism or adherence to the highest scientific rigour. ICMR is committed to treat the safety and interest of people of India as a topmost priority," the statement added.

There was hope but caution too as the Indian Council of Medical Research on Friday said it aims to launch the world's first COVID-19 vaccine by August 15.

The same day, Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila announced it has got the Drugs Controller General of India's (DCGI) nod for human clinical trials for a potential vaccine.

"Fast-tracking a vaccine trial in four weeks for safety, immunogenicity and efficacy is just not possible if things are to be done correctly," Shahid Jameel, virologist and CEO of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, a public charity that invests in building biomedical sciences and health research framework, told PTI.

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