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How Long Will The World Have To Wait For A Vaccine Against COVID-19? Experts Answer

According to the experts, vaccine development is a complex process, there are various clinical trials and quality check; a vaccine against COVID-19 can be expected in 2021

How Long Will The World Have To Wait For A Vaccine Against COVID-19? Experts Answer
Highlights
  • A vaccine against COVID-19 should be ready in 12-18 months: Experts
  • The world has 70 vaccine candidates; three have moved to human trial stage
  • In the absence of COVID-19 vaccine, Delhi to begin trials of plasma therapy

New Delhi: On March 17, US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle. Though the trials for the vaccine called mRNA-1273 begin a month ago and raised hopes, it was clearly stated that it may take another year to 18 months before the vaccine becomes available. In India also six companies are working on a vaccine for COVID-19. Across the world, there are 70 vaccine candidates.

While some believe that a vaccine against COVID-19 will be available by September 2020 and some are of the opinion that nothing until 2021. NDTV spoke to experts to know about the status of the vaccine and understand the dynamics of developing a vaccine.

Also Read: Doctor’s Advice: Studies On BCG Vaccine’s Role In Preventing Coronavirus Not Yet Confirmed Through Trials

Speaking about by when we can expect a vaccine, Saad Omer, Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH), said,

We have some really promising candidates for the vaccine but there is a lot of uncertainty. You don’t know how a vaccine will behave in the human population so it’s reasonable to expect something in 2021. There may be outliners that we get unexpected news. We should be realistic about our expectation specifically from a policy planning perspective.

Talking about the complex process of developing a vaccine and why can’t we expect a vaccine anytime soon, Dr Rommel Tickoo, Associate Director of Internal Medicine at Max Healthcare said,

Normally it takes 10-15 years to develop a vaccine and you need lots of funds for that but in this case, we are hopeful that it’ll take 1-1.5 years for us to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 because lots of researchers and scientists all over the world are working on it. Having said that, vaccine has its own stages of development like there is a pre-clinical stage, clinical stage which has phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 trials, regulatory review, approvals, manufacturing, and quality control. So, you have to go through all that. We also have to see how efficacious it is, the safety profile and how long will the immunity last. As of now, there are 70 vaccine candidates all over the world out of which three have moved to human trial stage. Two are from America which are in the first phase of trial and one is from China which is in the second phase of trial.

Also Read: Doctors, Healthcare Workers Deputed At COVID-19 Wards Share Their Challenges, Apprehensions As Crisis Deepens

The vaccine development will indeed take time and meanwhile, the Delhi government has announced the trials of plasma therapy. On Thursday (April 16), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the city has got the Centre’s approval to carry out clinical trials of plasma therapy to help critically ill coronavirus patients. The Chief Minister said,

Trial of Plasma Enrichment technique will begin in the next three or four days. If successful, we can save the lives of serious COVID-19 patients.

Also Read: Plasma Therapy Gives Positive Result In Delhi Hospital, Coronavirus Recovered People Can Become Donors

Plasma Therapy involves transfusion of plasma from a convalescent coronavirus patient to a critical patient. The blood of a convalescent patient is rich in antibodies that are expected to help the critical patient recover. Other countries like China, South Korea are also using this technique to save lives of people suffering from COVID-19.

Talking about whether or not India can depend on plasma therapy in the absence of a vaccine, Mr Omer said it’s promising but with a note of caution. He added,

There are two broad approaches of doing it – first, to throw the kitchen sink at the problem and try everything that exists; second, which seems to be happening with increasing frequency – which is to say, okay, these are the potential options based on the biology, based on the history from other infections, diseases and treatments and we are going to try out things systematically in trials, collect data, randomise people in certain situations. There can be non-randomised trials as well depending on the risk benefit calculus in a given situation and then we will improve our clinical practice. We will change our clinical repertoire based on those data. So using plasma has increasing evidence that’s been done the right way – generating evidence, quickly improving practice, broadening the use, looking at it again, so on and so forth.

Also Read: Stay Home, Stay Safe: In Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor, Police Use Art To Create Awareness About Coronavirus

Sharing his opinion on plasma therapy and how successful it can be, Dr Guido Vanham, Virologist said,

Plasma therapy has been successfully used in Hepatitis B and unsuccessfully in HIV and Hepatitis C. There is data from china that about 30 per cent of people who have recovered do not develop neutralising anti-bodies that can block the virus. If that is the case, therapy will not be universally successful but you can expect 60-70 per cent success.

In Delhi, Max Hospital is the first one to perform plasma therapy and the results have been promising. Sharing the insights of the same, Dr Tickoo said,

Though the evidence is anecdotal, we need randomised large scale trials on this but again having said that, in Max, we used it on a patient on compassionate grounds called off-label indications. The family wanted us to do something to save the patient and anyway he was not doing well. After taking the family into confidence, taking consent, and considering ICMR guidelines, we sued plasma. The patient is doing well and we plan to wean him off the ventilator in the next few days but again we need more trials, there is a need for more evidence. Whatever evidence we have in this case, plasma has been used in the past as well with Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). I think we can use it on compassionate grounds.

Also Read: The Decision To Lockdown India Was Taken Early And It Was Smart But Testing Needs To Scale Up: Expert On Country’s Fight Against Coronavirus

Further talking about whether India needs to ramp up testing, experts in unison nodded and said ‘yes’. Dr Omer believes that in order to control the spread of the virus, it was necessary to impose a lockdown but while we are in it, testing needs to be ramped up. He said,

Testing should be paired with mass contact tracing, early isolation and quarantine even if it’s at home. There is a possibility to ramp up testing within India to much more – may be not to the ideal level – but increase it especially during the period where you are buying social distancing.

Sharing the same thoughts, Dr Tickoo informed that ICMR is doing about 30,000 tests a day and plans to take the number to 1 lakh in next few weeks. He added,

ICMR is also doing rapid antibody test. Though it has its own limitations; it’s not a confirmatory test and can give false negatives in the first week. Also, since the last three days, the numbers are going down which is a good sign. With the lockdown, ramping up of the testing and healthcare facilities, and tracing the contacts and quarantining them, I think we will be able to contain it by the end of the month.

Also Read: With The Capacity To Accommodate 2000 Patients, Ahmedabad Creates The Largest COVID-19 Care Centre In The Country  

Countries like Italy have started releasing restrictions and lockdown. Sharing his views on whether it’s the right step especially at this juncture, Dr Guido Vanham said,

It depends on how fast and in what way restrictions are removed. We have to maintain certain number of measures to slow down and mitigate the pandemic. The main thing is social distancing and hand hygiene – washing hands with soap. Tests are not 100 per cent sensitive. There are a lot of asymptomatic people that can spread the disease.

Dr Vanhma also noted that the infectious disease will stay with the world for a long time and meanwhile regular handwashing and social distancing might become the normal thing. COVID-19 might turn out to be a seasonal issue but we don’t know yet.

With India under a lockdown, new cases and stories of the spread of the virus are turning up. Like on Thursday (April 16), in Delhi, a food delivery guy was tested COVID-19 positive following which 72 families have been quarantined. The case raises a safety concern especially when ordering food and groceries online. Taking about whether it’s safe to receive a package or order food online, Dr Tickoo said,

Yes, it’s okay to receive food but we have to take precautions like clean the outer surface of whatever package we are receiving, wear a mask, and maintain distance while accepting the package. In the case of food, warm it which will kill the virus. Simultaneously, employers should screen their employees.

Also Read: Stepping Out For Work Each Day, ‘Corona Warriors’ Maintain Isolation At Home

World

26,58,63,058Cases
22,65,37,591Active
3,40,69,608Recovered
52,55,859Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 196 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 26,58,63,058 and 52,55,859 have died; 22,65,37,591 are active cases and 3,40,69,608 have recovered as on December 6, 2021 at 5:12 am.

India

3,46,41,561 8,306Cases
98,416739Active
3,40,69,608 8,834Recovered
4,73,537 211Deaths
In India, there are 3,46,41,561 confirmed cases including 4,73,537 deaths. The number of active cases is 98,416 and 3,40,69,608 have recovered as on December 6, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

66,38,778 707

10,826 23

64,86,782 677

1,41,170 7

Kerala

51,65,921 4,450

44,110 317

50,80,211 4,606

41,600 161

Karnataka

29,98,099 456

7,161 120

29,52,708 330

38,230 6

Tamil Nadu

27,30,516 724

8,041 29

26,85,946 743

36,529 10

Andhra Pradesh

20,73,730 154

2,122 27

20,57,156 177

14,452 4

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,475 24

134 18

16,87,430 6

22,911

West Bengal

16,19,257 620

7,639 17

15,92,074 627

19,544 10

Delhi

14,41,358 63

370 48

14,15,890 15

25,098

Odisha

10,50,249 189

2,154 25

10,39,673 212

8,422 2

Chhattisgarh

10,06,967 25

330 4

9,93,044 21

13,593

Rajasthan

9,54,891 17

221 8

9,45,715 9

8,955

Gujarat

8,27,707 48

349 23

8,17,263 24

10,095 1

Madhya Pradesh

7,93,241 9

133 9

7,82,580 18

10,528

Haryana

7,71,819 22

185 5

7,61,580 17

10,054

Bihar

7,26,237 6

26 4

7,14,121 2

12,090

Telangana

6,76,943 156

3,787 8

6,69,157 147

3,999 1

Assam

6,17,576 101

2,490 61

6,08,966 158

6,120 4

Punjab

6,03,488 37

361 14

5,86,519 23

16,608

Jharkhand

3,49,342 25

127 12

3,44,074 13

5,141

Uttarakhand

3,44,353 8

174 1

3,36,768 7

7,411

Jammu And Kashmir

3,37,807 161

1,706 25

3,31,620 184

4,481 2

Himachal Pradesh

2,27,518 35

755 45

2,22,911 80

3,852

Goa

1,79,174 49

412 18

1,75,375 31

3,387

Mizoram

1,36,454 92

3,101 454

1,32,846 544

507 2

Puducherry

1,29,085 29

280 14

1,26,930 43

1,875

Manipur

1,25,360 32

353 9

1,23,025 40

1,982 1

Tripura

84,858 5

90 1

83,943 6

825

Meghalaya

84,583 9

244 2

82,864 11

1,475

Chandigarh

65,488 7

58 2

64,610 9

820

Arunachal Pradesh

55,293 5

36 4

54,977 1

280

Sikkim

32,369 10

215 2

31,749 8

405

Nagaland

32,136

117 9

31,320 9

699

Ladakh

21,714 31

295 3

21,204 34

215

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,683

0 0

10,679

4

Lakshadweep

10,404

10 0

10,343

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,688

4 2

7,555 2

129

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