A day after the ICMR said it aimed at producing the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine by 15 August, a top official of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said that the vaccine cannot be expected before the beginning of next year as the process involves considerable clinical trials and data testing. CSIR-CCMB Director Rakesh K Mishra said that ICMR’s letter in this context could be for internal use and its purpose is to pressure hospitals to be ready for clinical human trials.
When asked about the possibility of this drug being ready by 15 August, Mishra said, “If everything goes absolutely really like a textbook plan, then we are talking about six to eight months to think of something that now we have a vaccine. Because you have to test in large numbers. It is not like a drug that if somebody is sick you give and see if it is cured or not,”
The ICMR had on 3 June written to a select few medical institutions and hospitals, urging them to expedite the approval of clinical trials of Covaxin, an anti-coronavirus vaccine a collaboration with Bharat Biotech is preparing. Bharat Biotech plans to release this medicine on or before 15 August.
Mishra said, “Actually vaccine development takes many years, but we are in very desperate conditions. Maybe by the beginning of the next year if the vaccine clicks, we can expect. Not before that. Before that (it is) very unlikely as far as I understand.”
The CCMB director said that thousands of people are administered the vaccine during the clinical trials. “You have to wait for the data and results, which normally takes months,” he said.
In response to a question, Mishra said that CCMB was investigating 400 to 500 COVID-19 patients daily. He said the agency has sent a proposal to the ICMR to adopt a new method of investigation, which will take less time and human labour.
The CCMB director said, “We are doing a lot of tests… 400 to 500 tests every day. But there are limitations that you cannot go beyond certain numbers. But we had proposed to the ICMR a new way of testing. It is a shorter method. It can be done in a safer way and will take half the time. It is much less expensive and less human resources required. We are waiting for the ICMR to give an advisory on that.”