Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India is ready to ramp up the production of as many as three Covid-19 vaccines as soon as they are green-lit by scientists.
During his Independence Day speech at Red Fort, PM Modi said, “India today has three vaccines that are in the stage of clinical testing. We are also ready to massively scale up production of these vaccines, as soon as scientists give a green signal.”
The PM also praised the efforts of the ‘Corona warriors’ — doctors, nurses, healthcare staff, and sanitation workers — for helping people selflessly for an extended long period of time during the current pandemic.
He also sent condolence for all the families who lost their loved ones during the pandemic. “I believe that the will power of the 130 crore Indians will make us victorious in the fight against coronavirus,” Modi said.
While Modi did not name and details the three vaccines in his speech, we deliver to you details about the Indian vaccine development efforts that are in advanced stages of development and trials in India, and who is developing them.
Perhaps the most well-known in India — Its first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin is being developed by Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It has already started human clinical trials.
Covaxin vaccine comes under the category of inactivated vaccines. Inactivated vaccines use the killed version of the germ that causes a disease. Inactivated vaccines normally don’t provide immunity that’s as strong as live vaccines, however, parts of the virus can still be recognized by the body’s immune system and can trigger an immune reaction.
Once the vaccine is administered, the body is expected to produce antibodies that can fight off the novel coronavirus infection.
To develop the vaccine, scientists at Bharat Biotech have used a SARS-CoV-2 strain that was isolated at the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
The vaccine trial is not without controversy. In June, ICMR Director-General Dr. Balram Bhargava had written to the principal investigators at all 12 trial sites, saying the institute was looking at a 15 August launch date. Bharat Biotech said the trials will be conducted over 15 months.
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Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical firm Zydus Cadila’s vaccine ZyCoV-D against the SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, is also undergoing human clinical trials.
The company says that its vaccine is likely to be launched by next year. It is a DNA based vaccine that contains a genetically engineered plasmid — a small DNA molecule that can replicate independently. The plasmid is engineered to create a part of the virus that can trigger a protective immunological response.
DNA-based vaccines do not require a SARS-CoV-2 virus strain, unlike the inactivated vaccines that require viruses in killed or inactivated forms.
This makes developing the virus much simpler as it can be manufactured under minimal biosafety requirements.
As there is no infectious agent that is used in the vaccine, it can be produced with ease, under minimal biosafety requirements (BSL-1).
Serum Institute of India
Pune-Based Serum Institute of India (SERI) has received the DGCI nod to start trials in India for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and Astra-Zeneca.
The experimental vaccine is the first to enter the final stages of clinical trials to assess how well it works in protecting people from becoming infected by the virus
The vaccine named, ChAdOx1-S has already started phase three trials in several parts of the world including the US and Brazil.
SERI trials will end in November.
The vaccine is made from the ChAdOx1 virus, which is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees; it has been genetically changed so it can’t cause infection in humans. The spike protein of the novel coronavirus allows it to enter human cells. The presence of this protein triggers an immune response in a body.
The company is tying up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to ramp up vaccine production and make it ready to be supplied to low and middle-income countries at a low cost.
If the trial is successful, the Oxford Vaccine Group expects to launch the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of this year, which will make it the fastest vaccine to progress from the lab to getting regulatory approval for use.