Fast-moving clinical trials, and optimistic remarks from corporations as well as health experts, have been offering hope that a Coronavirus vaccine was, at most, just a few months away. But the World Health Organisation has once again sought to give a reality check.
In a virtual press interaction, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus suggested that the development of a magical vaccine that will protect humanity against the Coronavirus was still not guaranteed. “A number of vaccines are now in phase-III clinical trials, and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there is no silver bullet at the moment, and there might never be,” Tedros said.
“There are concerns that we may not have a vaccine that may work, or its protection could be for just a few months, not more. But until we finish the clinical trials, we will not know,” he said.
Pharmaceutical companies leading the race to develop a vaccine have been promising to deliver their product by early next year, if not earlier. Even Anthony Fauci, a top US expert on infectious diseases and one of the most trusted voices on this pandemic, has said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine would become a reality by early next year.
But this is not the first time that the WHO has sought to temper the excitement with regard to a Coronavirus vaccine. Several times in the past, it has reminded people about the inherent uncertainties in vaccine development, and even said that the possibility that the hunt for a Coronavirus vaccine remains unsuccessful cannot be ruled out.
On Monday, it again advised countries and people to follow the basic rules to avoid infection – wear masks, identify, isolate and treat infected people, and quarantine their contacts.
India’s drug regulator has given its approval to a proposal to carry out phase-II and phase-III clinical trials of the Oxford University vaccine in India. The trials are to be carried out by Pune-based Serum Institute of India, which also has a contract to manufacture and supply the Oxford vaccines, when they get ready, in poor and middle income countries.
The Oxford University vaccine, being developed in partnership with pharmaceutical major AstraZeneca, are already in phase-III human trials in some other countries. India’s regulatory rules require a drug or a vaccine to be tested on local population as well, before being allowed to be used in India.
The Serum Institute plans to test the vaccine on 1,600 volunteers at different locations within the country. Between 10 and 15 hospitals are expected to participate in the human trials, including at least four in Pune — government-run BJ Medical College, KEM hospital, Bharati Hospital, and Jehangir Hospital. Besides these, ICMR’s Regional Medical Research Centre in Gorakhpur, and Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences in Patna are also said to be part of the trials, which are expected to begin later this month.
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Indian drugmaker Wockhardt has entered into an agreement with UK government to help supply Coronavirus vaccines through the production facility of a subsidiary located in the North Wales.
The company said the agreement with UK government was not specific to any particular vaccine, and would supply the vaccines of whichever developers the UK is able to enter into an agreement with.
“It depends on what the UK government wants. They have worked on a strategy to tie up with multiple manufacturers, and they will decide… what kind of vaccines they want for themselves,” Wockhardt’s founder chairman Dr Habil Khorakiwala said.
The agreement with UK will make use of the 400-million vial capacity of Wockhardt’s subsidiary, CP Pharmaceuticals, in Wales.
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HUNT FOR CORONAVIRUS VACCINE: THE STORY SO FAR
(Source: WHO Coronavirus vaccine landscape of July 31, 2020)
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