Director General of ICMR Professor Balram Bhargava on Tuesday underlined that the process of development of an indigenous vaccine for Covid-19 should be fast-tracked but without “compromising on the science, quality and ethics part of it”.
His remarks come less than a fortnight after he wrote to all the principal investigators to fast-track clinical trial approvals, saying it is “envisaged” to launch the Covid-19 vaccine for public health use by August 15. After some of the country’s top scientists and medical experts described the timeline as “unreasonable” and “absurd”, the ICMR had said that its letter “was meant to cut unnecessary red tape”.
Addressing a press briefing on Tuesday, Bhargava reiterated that all efforts would be made to fast-track the development of indigenous vaccine candidates.
“India is considered the pharmacy of the world. Sixty per cent of the drugs utilised in the US are of Indian origin. These are generics produced in India, where the country has established itself over the years… An important fact that is not known is that 60 per cent of vaccines supplied in the world, whether it is Africa or Europe, is of Indian origin. India is perceived as and is important for vaccine supply for the world… So any vaccine candidate that is produced or developed in any part of the world will ultimately have to be scaled up by India or China. Because these are the two major producers of the vaccine in the world,” he said.
“Every developed nation and everyone who is trying to develop a vaccine is aware of, and therefore they are in communication with India for the vaccine distribution, ultimately if it is developed, to the whole world,” he added.
Bhargava said that besides fast-tracking the early phase human clinical trial of two indigenous vaccine candidates, the research body is also conducting preclinical studies for other potential candidates. “The preclinical studies are being done for other candidates at NIV Pune. Because it a moral duty to develop them as fast as possible because more than half a million people have succumbed to the disease across the world. So fast-tracking the vaccine becomes very important,” he said.
“As far as the vaccine development is concerned, we expect it to be complete as soon as possible. We don’t want to waste a single day on the regulatory front or approval; however, it will be done without compromising on the science, quality, and ethics part of it,” Bhargava asserted.
“Recently, Russia has fast-tracked, which has been successful in its early phase; China has fast-tracked its vaccine programme and the studies; the US, as we read today, has fast-tracked two of its vaccine candidates. The UK also is looking at how it can fast-track Oxford vaccine candidate for human use. From India’s perspective, we have two candidates and are trying all efforts to fast-track it and it is the moral duty that there should not be a delay of a day for regulatory clearances for the vaccine so that we can break the transmission of the virus as soon as possible,” he added.
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