India might very well be at the cusp of finding a cure for COVID-19, which is still wreaking havoc across the world. Caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus strain, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, and India has just emerged as the fourth-worst affected country globally, although our death numbers are miraculously low when compared to other countries with the same number of cases, or even less. Now, in what could be a watershed moment not just for India, but the world, two vaccine candidates have entered the human trials phase in India.
The first, of course, was Covaxin (BBV152 COVID vaccine), jointly developed by ICMR and Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL). The strain for Covaxin has been isolated by the National Institute of Virology, Pune. ICMR, in a letter dated July 2, has informed all institutes chosen for Covaxin human trials that the topmost medical body aims to launch the vaccine for “public health use” on August 15, 2020. “It is envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by 15th August 2020 after completion of all clinical trials,” said the research body. The ICMR letter also read, “Non-compliance will be viewed very seriously. Therefore, you are advised to treat this project on highest priority and meet the given timelines without any lapse.” The letter also stated that the progress on the vaccine front is being monitored at the topmost levels of the Union government.
B I G !
ICMR and BBIL plan to launch BBV152 CoVID vaccine (Covaxin) for public health use by 15th August, 2020! pic.twitter.com/gwPNaddg59
— Sanbeer Singh ਸਨਬੀਰ ਸਿੰਘ (@SSanbeer) July 3, 2020
Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila too has just been given the go ahead to begin Phase I and II human trials of their coronavirus vaccine candidate. This is the second coronavirus vaccine to get approval for human trials in India, after Covaxin. According to India Today, the approval process was fast-tracked following a recommendation by the subject expert committee on coronavirus, considering the emergency and unmet medical need during the pandemic. Zydus is all set to begin trials in over 1000 subjects across the country. This, after the vaccine showed a “strong immune response” in animal studies, in which the antibodies produced were able to completely neutralise the wild type virus.
It is important to note that the ICMR has set an optimistic deadline of just over a month to launch Covaxin for public consumption, if all goes well, that is. Whether we are able to meet the said deadline or not will be known only after a month, however, the ICMR would not be dreaming so big if previous results would not have been tremendously positive. A launch of the said vaccine on India’s Independence Day would effectively translate into the world getting freedom on the same day from a virus which China has shoved down our throats.
It will also be a major push for India’s soft power influence around the globe. Already, by supplying Hydroxychloroquine around the world, India has earned massive goodwill. If India can now crack the vaccine for the world, it will have far-reaching consequences. The world, which is looking at China as the culprit of letting the pandemic spread unfettered, will then look up to India as a nation which helped the globe get rid of the same. All now hinges on the human trials of the two Indian vaccine candidates, and whether Covaxin can be rolled out in a month’s time.