Before it was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, the Covid-19 Covaxin vaccine in India received a lot of suspicion, but it proved effective in practice.
After the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread, Bharat Biotech was one of two Indian companies that decided to participate in vaccine development with the pharmaceutical company Zydus. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a government agency, has chosen Bharat Biotech to cooperate in the development of vaccines, but the main role of ICMR is to provide virus samples.
Most of the research and investment are undertaken by Bharat Biotech, a company based in Hyderabad.
Bharat Biotech is a well-known name in the field of vaccine development and production. When deciding to start the journey of developing a Covid-19 vaccine, Bharat Biotech had 15 vaccines against multiple diseases on the market, including a rotavirus against diarrhea that was developed after 10 years of research and development.
Bharat Biotech has also developed a typhoid vaccine based on advanced technology, which entered the market three years ago and has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for global use. It is the only vaccine in the world that provides lasting immunity to typhoid fever.
However, when starting to develop a Covid-19 vaccine called Covaxin, Bharat Biotech chose the traditional inactivated virus technology. Its effectiveness has been proven by time. This is in line with some of the world’s bets on new and complex technologies. The company is different. Virus inactivation technology is considered to be a safe method with less possibility of side effects.
Bharat Biotech’s choice was supported by the scientific community. However, some of the actions of the Indian government have aroused suspicion by Kovasin, which has attracted foreign attention not only in the scientific community, but also among the public.
In early July 2020, ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava was found to require hospitals that were testing Covaxin to “accelerate all approvals related to clinical trials” because the vaccine is “expected to be put into use” no later than August 15, 2020 He even warned that “violations will be taken seriously.”
Bhargava’s instruction text seems to imply that Covaxin can be licensed within a month and a half, but the vaccine usually takes several years to be approved. Therefore, this gives the impression that the Indian authorities are willing to license vaccines that have not been fully tested for safety, which may pose a threat to people’s health.
Although the ICMR director-general later withdrew the directive, the initial impression of Covaxin remained unchanged and deepened in January, when India approved the emergency use of Covaxin, although preliminary results of Phase III clinical trials have not yet been obtained. In addition, at this time, the number of nCoV infections in India is declining, and the demand for vaccines is not so urgent, and there are only a few weeks left before the preliminary test results, leading to increased suspicion of Covaxin.
However, despite the controversy, Covaxin worked well after actual deployment. The safety and effectiveness of Covaxin are comparable to other Covid-19 vaccines on the market. After receiving two full doses for 14 days, the effective rate is 78% in any severity.
Covaxin, together with Covid-19 vaccine Covishield, jointly developed by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and Oxford University and produced by the Serum Institute of India, played a key role in India’s fight against the pandemic.
During the disastrous second wave of pandemics, the country used to record more than 400,000 Covid-19 cases and thousands of deaths every day, but now that number has dropped significantly, to approximately 12,000 and 400, respectively. India has also fully opened up people from 99 countries to be vaccinated without being quarantined.
Nevertheless, the implementation of Covaxin still faces many difficulties, including the challenge faced by Bharat Biotech, which is the goal of substantially increasing vaccine production as planned. The new Covid-19 vaccine accounts for approximately 11% of all Covid-19 vaccines used in India, although this proportion is equivalent to more than 100 million doses.
The WHO approved the emergency use of Covaxin on November 3, assessing that the Covid-19 vaccine is “very suitable for low- and middle-income countries” because of its relatively easy storage requirements, opening up opportunities and increasing access to vaccine supplies in poor countries chance. Indians who want to leave the country also need to get approval from the WHO, because only a few countries have approved Covaxin.
In addition, the recognition of Covaxin is said to help promote the use of this vaccine in children. After successful trials in this age group, India has just issued a license for Covaxin injections for people aged 2-18.
It is said that the WHO’s approval decision also helps Kovasin to regain the trust of the public. Bharat Biotech’s current goal is to increase production to meet the expected strong future demand.
luster (follow India Express)