The coronavirus vaccine being prepared by biotechnology company Bharat Biotech with the Indian Council of Medical Research could be available as early as February, months earlier than expected, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing a senior government scientist.
“The vaccine has shown good efficacy,” senior ICMR scientist Rajni Kant said. “It is expected that by the beginning of next year, February or March, something would be available.” Kant is a member of ICMR’s Covid-19 task-force and also heads the agency’s policy, research management, planning and coordination cell.
Bharat Biotech had last month said that its coronavirus vaccine candidate, Covaxin, was likely to be ready for launch by June. The firm had received the go-ahead for phase 3 clinical trials on October 22. If the vaccine is launched in February, Covaxin would be the first Indian-made vaccine to be rolled out.
Kant said it was up to the health ministry to decide if Covaxin shots can be given to people even before the third-stage trials are over. “There may be some risk, if you are ready to take the risk, you can take the vaccine,” he said. “If necessary, the government can think of giving the vaccine in an emergency situation.”
The senior scientist said that the vaccine has shown safety and efficacy in phase 1 and 2 trials as well as in animal studies. However, he added that one cannot be completely sure about its safety till phase 3 trials are over.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said in September that the government was considering emergency authorisation of coronavirus vaccine, especially for the elderly and people in high-risk workplaces.
Globally, several leading vaccine candidates are already in final-stage testing, including those by AstraZeneca, Moderna Inc, Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson. AstraZeneca has signed supply and manufacturing deals with many companies and governments around the world, including with the Serum Institute of India.
Covaxin, India’s first indigenous vaccine, is an inactivated vaccine created from a strain of the infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus. Inactivated vaccines use the killed version of the germ that causes a disease. It helps the immune system mount an antibody response towards virus.
Meanwhile, India’s coronavirus count on Thursday reached 83,64,086 after 50,210 new infections were reported. The toll went up by 704 to 1,24,315. There are 5,27,962 active cases, and 77,11,809 recoveries.