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COVID-19 vaccine: Completion of trials could take at least 6 to 9 months, says Soumya Swaminathan

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A day after scientists and specialists raised severe considerations over Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) letter to all 12 principal investigators to velocity up the trial course of of Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine and allow it to be launched for “public health use latest by August 15”, the nodal company issued a clarification saying the letter was meant solely to “cut unnecessary red tape” and “speed up recruitment of participants”. Experts world wide have been saying that it might take at least 12-18 months to launch a vaccine for COVID-19.

In an e-mail to The Hindu, Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, mentioned: “A realistic (but very optimistic) timeline from the start of Phase-1 to the completion of Phase-3 could be about six to nine months (if all goes exactly according to plan).”

Bharat Biotech has acquired an approval to conduct solely Phase-1 and Phase-2 trials. So launching the vaccine for public use earlier than August 15 this yr would imply that the Phase-Three trial, which assessments the efficacy of the vaccine on a big quantity of members and takes the longest time to full, could have to be skipped or rushed up.

Also learn: Potential COVID-19 vaccine by Zydus Cadila will get DCGI nod for human medical trials

Responding to a selected query whether or not Phase-Three trial could be skipped for making the vaccine obtainable for public use in gentle of the pandemic, Dr. Swaminathan mentioned: “Any vaccine must demonstrate efficacy and safety in a sizable number of participants. The WHO has published target product profiles for a COVID vaccine [and] immunogenicity data alone would be insufficient for a vaccine use policy. It is possible to have protocols which flow seamlessly from Phase-2 to Phase-3 based on interim analysis of data.”

ACT accelerator

In the midst of the pandemic and within the absence of any secure and efficacious vaccine, makes an attempt are being made to speed up vaccine improvement.

COVID-19 vaccine: Completion of trials could take at least 6 to 9 months, says Soumya Swaminathan


On whether or not vaccine improvement could be rushed by way of by bypassing sure vital phases of testing, she mentioned: “The pandemic demands unprecedented efforts to develop a vaccine. That is why the WHO and partners launched the ACT [Access to COVID-19 Tools] accelerator to accelerate the development, deployment and delivery of COVID vaccines. While clinical trials need to be performed with scientific rigour and demonstrate efficacy and safety, timelines can be shortened by investing in manufacturing upfront, preparing sites in advance, regulatory harmonisation, collaboration between the different government agencies and anticipating the next steps. Performing trials in areas and among groups with a high risk of infection will also help by accumulating the necessary endpoints in a shorter time.”

The Hindu Explains: Can a COVID-19 vaccine be developed quickly?

China has not too long ago authorized the use of one of its COVID-19 vaccines, which has accomplished Phase-1 and Phase-2 trials, to be used completely by the navy for one yr. The vaccine shouldn’t be presently being made obtainable for public use. Reiterating the necessity to conduct a Phase-Three trial earlier than launching the vaccine for public use, Dr. Swaminathan instructed The Hindu: “Any vaccine that is going to be used at large scale must demonstrate efficacy and safety. The WHO has offered our support to vaccine developers all over the world to enable that the best science is performed, and to facilitate multi-country clinical trials.”

‘Important to start preparing for vaccine delivery’

“The scientific establishment in India has a long history of rising to national challenges and delivering the needed products. Indian manufacturers supply over half of childhood vaccines procured by the UNICEF and the GAVI. I am optimistic that with the capacity available in the public and private sector in India, that one or more successful vaccines will emerge,” she mentioned.


She additionally added that the WHO, together with the GAVI and the CEPI, is in dialogue with Secretary, DBT, and 5 Indian vaccine producers to present any variety of help and facilitate advancing the candidates to trials.

Dr. Swaminathan added: “It is encouraging to see that at least seven Indian companies are developing COVID-19 vaccines. All of them must be tested, through the various phases, in collaboration with the DBT and the ICMR, and till we see results from these trials, we cannot predict which of them will be successful. Having a regulatory standard and clear criteria for advancing vaccines through the various stages, will be very helpful (the FDA has recently produced such a document, and so has the WHO). At the same time, it is important to start preparing for vaccine delivery and preparing the strategy and policy for deployment among various risk groups. Community engagement and preparedness will be an important component and must be addressed.”

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