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India aims to have Covid-19 vaccine by mid-August

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: tabipacademy.com
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But scientists are skeptical at the speed of the development. India has announced its plan to take its first Covid-19 vaccine from human trials to general use by mid-August, just 6 weeks from now. Bharat Biotech International, an unlisted vaccine maker, received regulatory approval to start human clinical trials for its experimental vaccine earlier this week, but it’s already got India’s top medical research body expediting the process.

Bloomberg reports that a July 2 letter from the Indian Council of Medical Research to clinical trial sites said the vaccine is “envisaged to be rolled out for public health use by August 15, after completion of all clinical trials,” and that it’s “one of the top priority projects which is being monitored at the topmost level of the government.”

There is no evidence that Bharat Biotech’s vaccine is safe for human use, not to mention effective at providing any protection, short or long term. The “envisioned” timeline is far shorter than other front-runner vaccine efforts from American and Chinese drug makers, most of whom started human clinical trials months ago, and are now entering the last of 3 stages of testing.

There has never been an effective vaccine developed for any of the coronavirus family of diseases – SARS, MERS, the ‘common cold’ – 229E (alpha coronavirus), NL63 (alpha coronavirus), OC43 (beta coronavirus), HKU1 (beta coronavirus) – or Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2). Influenza (Flu) is NOT a coronavirus.

The announcement of a potential vaccine underlines India’s desperate need to find a way to stem the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 650,000 people and killed over 18,600 in the country, making it Asia’s new epicentre with the world’s fourth-largest outbreak. In its letter, the ICMR urged the trial sites to enroll volunteers by Tuesday.

The proposed speed has alarmed many in the medical fraternity. According to a tweet from a medical researcher at India’s Manipal University…

“Such an accelerated development pathway has not been done EVER for any kind of vaccine, even the ones being tried out in other countries. Even with accelerated timelines, this seems rushed and hence, has potential risks.”

The government of Indian PM Narendra Modi is anxious to create the impression it has gained control over the outbreak, after abandoning a costly lockdown that caused tremendous economic suffering without slowing the spread of the virus. The August 15 deadline for the Bharat vaccine may reflect that political pressure: that’s the day India celebrates its Independence from the British.

SOURCE: Bloomberg | Bangkok Post

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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