View from India: Vaccine makers explore new frontiers
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India’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage has passed the 1.95 billion mark, and newer vaccines are in the pipeline.
India has put in decades of R&D in developing life-saving vaccines for adults and children. The pandemic has fast-tracked large-scale vaccine production. The pressing need for vaccine development has prompted manufacturers to research-collaborate with scientific bodies. Scientists, vaccine makers and regulators worked in tandem to arrive at vaccines that can protect the masses from the virus. By doing so, they could skip protocol measures. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has enabled hassle-free approvals for timely vaccine rollouts.
The vaccines were first administered for adults, followed by a portfolio of vaccines for children. The children’s segment, represented by Cadila Healthcare’s ZyCoV-D and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, is now joined by Corbevax, also homegrown like the others. An intramuscular vaccine from Biological E. Limited (BE), Corbevax is accorded Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) as a Covid-19 vaccine from DCGI. It is available for consumption only in India via authorised channels. Inoculation happens in an interval of 28 days and the vaccine is stored between 2 degrees Celsius and 8 degrees Celsius.
As vaccine research evolved, the sector has also arrived at vaccines for other diseases. The latest move in this direction is the quadrivalent human papillomavirus (qHPV) vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII). This could be used to prevent cervical cancer, and it may be available later in the year. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer that happens to women between 15 years and 44 years of age in India. Reviewed by the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) on Covid-19, the qHPV vaccine is the country’s indigenous life-saving vaccine. Being home-grown this is in sync with vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat or Self Reliant India. Gennova Biopharmaceuticals mRNA vaccine is also Made in India.
Meanwhile the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is encouraging domestic pharmaceutical companies and vaccine makers to develop a vaccine for dengue, a mosquito-borne viral disease. That’s understandable as the World Health Organization says Asia accounts for 70 per cent of all dengue cases reported out of 129 countries. Annually it is estimated that 100-400 million infections occur, with over 80 per cent being generally mild and asymptomatic.
Mansukh Mandaviya, the Union Minister for Health, has revealed that 89 per cent of the Indian adult population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Over 75 per cent of children in the age group of 12 to 14 have taken the first dose of coronavirus vaccine. India now has strong protective shield of over 195 crore [1.95bn] vaccine doses, said Mandaviya, as the cumulative vaccination tally has just crossed this figure. “In the nation's collective fight against #COVID19 under PM @NarendraModi Ji’s dynamic leadership, India now has strong protective shield of over 195 crore vaccine doses. Rapidly marching towards hitting the double century! Let's do it at the earliest!”, the minister said in a tweet.
The Co-Win portal has supported the immediate rollout of the vaccine with registrations and has issued digital certificates upon inoculation. Some time ago, drones were in news for delivering vaccines. Still, social distancing, sanitising hands and wearing masks remain a norm, as a precaution against omicron and delta variants. The government has embarked on a door-to-door campaign titled Har Ghar Dastak 2.0 to expedite Covid-19 vaccination coverage. It aims to cover all eligible beneficiary groups for first, second and precaution doses. The focus will also remain on improving sub-optimal coverage of persons aged over 60 years with precaution dose, along with considerably slower speed of coverage in the 12-14 years cohort. The spotlight is on old age homes, schools, colleges and including the out-of-school children, prisons and brick kilns. The campaign is on till 31 July.
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