- Trials of the BA.5-Omicron specific vaccine are underway in Australia
- By Nov-Dec, we should be in a position to apply to US FDA: Mr Poonawalla
- Omicron-specific vaccine is important as a booster: Mr Poonawalla
New Delhi: Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in India, especially of the Omicron variant, the Serum Institute of India in collaboration with Novavax is working on a vaccine specific to BA.5, a sub-variant of Omicron. In an exclusive interview with NDTV on August 15, Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India said, “The BA.5 variant is spreading quite a bit globally. There are many cases in India as well. We are working on a BA.5 variant specific vaccine with Novovax, at the moment.”
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Mr Poonawalla further informed that the trials of the BA.5-Omicron specific vaccine are currently underway in Australia. Probably by November-December, we should be in a position to apply to US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), drug regulator, he added.
Talking about the availability of Omicron-specific vaccine in India, Mr Poonawalla said,
Whether we have to do a separate clinical trial in India is yet to be decided. Our teams are talking to the government officials. We hope to have a vaccine by the end of this year or in the first quarter of next year.
Important to note, that the vaccine’s entry into the Indian market will depend on clearance by the Indian drug regulator. Mr Poonawalla said,
I would guesstimate that we could have a vaccine in six months or thereabouts. It is based on the Indian regulators, how quickly they allow us to produce that.
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Mr Poonawalla is of the opinion that “this vaccine is important as a booster”. Talking about the infectivity of the Omicron variant, he said,
Although the new variant may not be causing a lot of hospitalisations, it is very serious, if you get it. It is like a bad case of the flu. It is in my opinion important to boost with that vaccine whenever it gets approved and is available.
Parts of the country, including Delhi, have been witnessing a spike in Covid cases, driven by several sub-variants of Omicron. Last week, Covid Task Force Chief NK Arora told NDTV that the strains of Omicron circulating in Delhi are more infectious than the base strain that surfaced in January this year. Along with it, the effectiveness of the vaccines in preventing infections has dropped 20 to 30 per cent, he said.
The current strains doing the rounds in Delhi – like the sub-lineages of Omicron B5 and B2 are 20 to 30 per cent more infectious than the base Omicron variant, he said.
Dr NK Arora reiterated that no currently available vaccines prevent infections. Secondly, symptomatic infections keep on occurring with some degree of benefit. The most important benefit vaccine is providing us is protection against severe disease, he said.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.