Even as researchers are working 24×7 to create a vaccine to prevent the increasing cases of COVID-19 globally, the big question that comes to one’s mind is as to when will it take? And by when will we have access to the COVID-19 vaccine?
These were some of the questions discussed during Episode-9 of the HEAL-Thy Samvaad, organised by the Healthcare Advocacy Group – HEAL Foundation in association with ICCIDD recently.
“India may get COVID-19 vaccine by March 2021 provided the regulators signal with the processes fast as multiple manufacturers are working on it. India is heading fast towards vaccine development as two manufacturers are already in phase-3 trial and one in the phase-2 trial, while more players are joining the race. Usually, vaccine development takes 8-10 years, but this is the third time we are able to produce this one in a short time. The WHO has also taken initiative to make the process fast and easy,” shared Dr Suresh Jadav, Executive Director, Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd, Pune at the e-Summit.
“We can produce 700-800 million vaccine dosages every year once the things are streamlined. Although 55% of the population is below 50 years of age, yet as per the availability of vaccines, healthcare workers should get the vaccines first, then people over 60 years of age with comorbidities followed by the rest of the populace. As far as Serum Institute is concerned, we will be ready with 60-70 million dosages of vaccines by December 2020, but that will come in the market in 2021 after the clearance of licencing. Thereafter, we will produce more and more dosages by the permission of the govt.,” added Dr Jadav.
While speaking on the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccine, Dr J L Meena, Joint Director, NHA, said, “Of course, to have a check on the upsurge of COVID-19 infection, the vaccine is quintessential. However, the biggest challenge lies in its accessibility. The mechanism of the supply chain should also be redefined so that the distribution turns out equitably. For this, we need to prioritise the accessibility depending upon the vulnerability of the populace and take some strong action within the time limit. Effective governance is also required to carry out the judicious accessibility of the vaccine, which we have already.”
Recently, during an online WHO question-and-answer session, Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organisation, reiterated the WHO’s stance against allowing the virus to spread unchecked to reach herd immunity, emphasizing that the concept should be discussed only within the context of a vaccine. “Once we have a vaccine, we can aim to have population immunity – herd immunity – because you’ll need to vaccinate at least 70 percent of people, have them protected, to break the transmission,” she added.