Vac­cine can­di­dates from In­dia pro­gress­ing well, says ICMR

Phase II/III tri­als of Ox­ford Univer­sity’s Covid-19 vac­cine can­di­date to start at 17 sites within a week

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Htspotligh­t - Rhythma Kaul let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

NEW DELHI: In­dia’s Covid-19 vac­cine can­di­dates are pro­gress­ing well, In­dian Coun­cil of Med­i­cal Re­search (ICMR) di­rec­tor-gen­eral Bal­ram Bhar­gava said on Tues­day.

He added phase II/III clin­i­cal tri­als for the re­com­bi­nant Ox­ford Univer­sity vac­cine can­di­date will be­gin within a week at 17 sites across In­dia. Serum In­sti­tute of In­dia, which is the lo­cal man­u­fac­turer of the vac­cine, will con­duct the tri­als.

“In­ac­ti­vated virus vac­cine can­di­date by Bharat Biotech and the DNA vac­cine by Zydus Cadila have com­pleted phase I stud­ies in 11 sites and started phase II tri­als. Phase I and II tri­als are for safety stud­ies and very early ef­fi­cacy stud­ies,” said Bhar­gava.

At least 141 vac­cine can­di­dates are be­ing stud­ied glob­ally, of which 26 are in dif­fer­ent phases of clin­i­cal tri­als.

Bhar­gava said In­dia is making all ef­forts to en­sure a vac­cine is avail­able when­ever it is ready. He added it in­cludes pri­ori­tis­ing and fair distri­bu­tion, main­tain­ing the cold chain, stock­pil­ing and train­ing of peo­ple to ad­min­is­ter vac­cines.

“Avail­abil­ity of the vac­cine is the key but what is more im­por­tant in man­ag­ing the dis­ease is sus­tained be­havioural change that in­cludes wear­ing of masks, hand hy­giene, and ob­serv­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing.”

Dr GC Khilnani, a for­mer pul­monology de­part­ment head at New Delhi’s All In­dia In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sciences, said the vac­cine will be the ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion. “Many vac­cine can­di­dates are show­ing promise in ini­tial tri­als, but which­ever makes it should reach masses in time.”

Union health sec­re­tary Ra­jesh Bhushan sep­a­rately said In­dia’s cur­rent case fa­tal­ity rate (CFR) of 2.10% has been the low­est since the first phase of the lock­down (around 3.3%) that was im­posed to check the Covid-19 spread from March 25.

“There has been a pro­gres­sive de­cline in coun­try’s CFR and it is now the low­est since lock­down be­gan and also one of the low­est glob­ally. The mor­tal­ity anal­y­sis that we have done is broadly in line with the global sce­nario, al­though per­cent­ages may dif­fer,” said Bhushan.

The lat­est mor­tal­ity anal­y­sis shows 68% of the Covid-19 deaths in the coun­try are among men and 32% among women. Most deaths—50%—are in the age group of 60 and above, fol­lowed by 37% among peo­ple be­tween 45 and 60. About 11% of peo­ple, who suc­cumbed to the dis­ease, were be­tween 26 and 44.

Ju­gal Kishore, who heads the com­mu­nity medicine de­part­ment at Saf­dar­jung Hos­pi­tal, said el­derly and those with co-mor­bidi­ties are vul­ner­a­ble and need special fo­cus. “All our data points to that. It is im­por­tant for the coun­try to achieve the tar­get of CFR be­low 1%.”

IN­CREASED TEST­ING Bhar­gava said they have been do­ing in­tel­li­gent and calibrated test­ing.

He added re­mote ar­eas with the inad­e­quate test­ing fa­cil­i­ties, or those dis­tricts with the high caseload, are be­ing given pri­or­ity.

“We set up labs in ar­eas where there were no labs or very few labs and de­ployed high through­put test­ing ma­chines in special eco­nomic zones, where the public move­ment was higher and larger in­ter­na­tional air­ports. Our tar­get is to go up to one mil­lion tests a day.”

He added it is im­por­tant for states to an­a­lyse the data well to de­ploy re­sources ac­cord­ingly.”

VEN­TI­LA­TOR IN­DUS­TRY Even though less than 1% of the coun­try’s Covid-19 pa­tients are on ven­ti­la­tor sup­port at any given time, In­dia has man­aged to es­tab­lish full self-re­liant ven­ti­la­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties and is even ready to ex­port the ma­chines.

In­dia has com­mis­sioned about 60,000 ven­ti­la­tors to some 20 odd do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ers.

“There were just a few man­u­fac­tur­ers of ven­ti­la­tors in In­dia some four months ago and even those making them in In­dia re­lied heav­ily on im­ported parts. When the out­break started, many of those coun­tries im­posed re­stric­tions. There was no op­tion but to en­cour­age do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ers to get into the fray, and we have man­aged it with great suc­cess,” said Bhushan.

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