India sets 40 day target to launch coronavirus vaccine for public use

India is working to launch a coronavirus vaccine in 40 days, just in time for her 73rd Independence day. India would celebrate Independence day on 15th August.

In a letter the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) showed Director General Balram Bhargava saying it wants a vaccine for public use by 15th August, with the aim to begin human trials by July 7.

The research body has partnered with Bharat Biotech in developing the vaccine.

Vaccine development is a multi phase process. In phase 1, the number of participants are small. It sees whether the vaccine is safe for humans or not. In phase 2, the number of participants are many and it involves to evaluating its efficiency. In the final phase, the vaccine is injected on thousands and its results are studied for months.

The clinical trial phase can last up to 18 months.

Adding the timeline for regulatory approvals any vaccine could takes upto three years before it hits markets. However, authorities around the world are fast-tracking potential vaccine trials in the light of the pandemic. Globally the target date set for early 2021.

India’s bid to build a vaccine and ready it for humans by August 15 is far fetched. ICMR’s statement received criticism  from health experts warning compromise of patients safety and ethics.

In a clarification statement ICMR said it aims to “complete these phases at the earliest, so that population-based trials for efficacy could be initiated without delay.”

“In the larger public health interest, it is important for ICMR to expedite the clinical trials with a promising indigenous vaccine.”

“ICMR’s process is exactly in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track the vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential wherein human and animal trials can continue in parallel.”

Domestically if India gets hold of a vaccine by 15 August it would massively benefit Mr. Modi in the elections later this year. And it will obviously overshadow Modi’s flaws in handling of the Chinese incursions, economy, unemployment, inflation and many other issues.

For virologists, it adds more pressure that may or may not be the safest approach that’s already killing thousands.