Kapil Sibal calls vaccine availability by August 15 'unscientific gaffe'

Clay Curtis
July 6, 2020

According to scientific inputs provided by institutions like Pune based ICMR institution National Institute of Virology and Hyderabad based CSIR institution Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, six Indian companies have been working on probable vaccine candidate for Coronavirus.

The vaccine - Covaxin which has been created by Bharat Biotech had recently received a nod for the clinical trial.

ICMR Chief Professor Balram Bhargava, in his letter to the clinical trial sites, had warned that "non-compliance will be viewed very seriously". Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity.

To support his claims, the former Maharashtra Chief Minister in his tweet has also referred to the article in New York Times saying "Can a vaccine for Covid-19 be developed in record time?" The company itself, in a background note circulated last week, had said it expected the phase 1 and phase 2 trials to be completed only by October, after which phase 3 trials can be initiated.

The Indian Academy of Sciences (IASc), one of the top scientific bodies in the country, has decried the directive by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to "fast track all approvals related to initiation of the clinical trial" of the vaccine for COVID-19 as the government wants to launch it for public health use by 15 August 2020.

Infact a statement issued by Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization has also gone viral in this context, which says- "This vaccine can not be given to people from August 15".

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The letter to investigators of clinical trial sites was meant to cut unnecessary red tape, without bypassing any necessary process, and to speed up recruitment of participants, the ICMR said in a statement on Saturday.

Moitra said that this is the "first time in the history of modern science that a vaccine is having to meet a deadline".

Experts have also cautioned against rushing the process for developing a COVID-19 vaccine and stressed that it is not in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential. Sources in the ICMR have confirmed the letter to be authentic. This followed the submission of the animal trial results that show the vaccine to be safe and trigger an immune response.

Bharat Biotech has got an approval to conduct only Phase-1 and Phase-2 trials. On July 5, the Indian Academy of Sciences (IASc) voiced out that while it welcomes the exciting development of a candidate vaccine and wishes it is quickly made available for public use, it strongly believes that the deadline is unfeasible and it has raised unrealistic hopes and expectations in the mind of citizens. It was also said that in the past, India has been in the forefront of making vaccines.

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.

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