Protein-Based COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates More Suitable For India, Scientists Say

Protein-Based COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates More Suitable For India, Scientists Say

According to experts, some vaccines, called vectored-vaccines, use viruses compatible with the human body to deliver the DNA or RNA of the novel coronavirus inside our cells, which then instructs them to make SARS-CoV-2 proteins
Coronavirus Vaccine, News
- in Coronavirus Vaccine, News
Protein-Based COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates More Suitable For India, Scientists SayVaccines generate immunity by mimicking a milder form of an infection and helping the immune system "remember" the pathogen, say experts
  • Five vaccine candidates are currently undergoing clinical trials in India
  • Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would not be accessible to India: Experts
  • Immunogenicity is the ability of a vaccine to provoke an immune response

New Delhi: As the world moves into the next stage of COVID-19 management and several vaccine candidates approach end-stage trials, scientists say a critical consideration for India is storage temperature and a protein-based preventive might therefore work best for the country. The decision on procuring the right COVID-19 vaccine depends on multiple factors, including safety, price and ease of deployment, the scientists added, pitching for a preventive like the one being developed by US firm Novavax that can be stored at higher temperatures rather than those developed from mRNA or viral vectors. That would potentially rule out the three vaccine candidates that have shown over 90 per cent efficiency over the last few days — Pfizer-BioNtech with 90 per cent efficacy in Phase 3 trial interim results, Sputnik V with 92 per cent and Moderna with 94.5 per cent – raising hopes across the globe that a preventive is on the horizon.

Also Read: Centre Examining All Possible Storage Facilities For Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine

While none of them are protein-based, the one from US biotechnology company Moderna is perhaps the most suitable for Indian conditions because it doesn’t need the extreme low temperatures that the others do.

Immunologist Satyajit Rath explained that the vaccine candidates by US-backed Pfizer-BioNTech and Russia’s Sputnik V need much lower storage temperature conditions compared to protein-based vaccine candidates like the one developed by Novavax.

Vaccines generate immunity by mimicking a milder form of an infection and helping the immune system “remember” the pathogen. So they contain some part of an infectious agent that is capable of generating an immune response, such as the viral genetic material, its RNA or DNA, or the proteins in the virus which interact with human cells.

Some vaccines, called vectored-vaccines, use viruses compatible with the human body to deliver the DNA or RNA of the novel coronavirus inside our cells, which then instructs them to make SARS-CoV-2 proteins.

The mRNA, DNA and viral vector-based vaccines are generally likely to need much lower temperature storage conditions than protein-based vaccines so India should be seriously looking at protein-based vaccine candidates such as the Novavax or the Sanofi candidates, as well as other very interesting efforts in India, Mr. Rath, from the National Institute of Immunology (NII) in New Delhi, told PTI.

Currently in late-phase clinical development, the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, is a stable, prefusion protein that can be used to elicit robust neutralising antibody responses. On the other hand, the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine candidate is an mRNA-based design while Russia’s Sputnik V is an adenovirus vector-based one. On Monday, Moderna, also an mRNA vaccine, joined the list.

Also Read: Pfizer Says COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Complete, Cites Shot Is 95 Per Cent Effective

Moderna said its new data showed its vaccine is stable at refrigerator temperatures for 30 days, much longer than the previous estimate of seven days, suggesting it may be better suited for Indian conditions than the Pfizer and Sputnik V candidates. For longer-term storage, it can be kept in freezers, though it doesn’t need the special facilities required for the Pfizer vaccine, the company said.

This (Moderna) vaccine can reportedly be stored in the refrigerator (unfrozen) for up to 30 days and at room temperature for up to 12 hours, said virologist Shahid Jameel.

He said temperatures in India and many other tropical regions of the world are very high during summer months and most vaccines will not survive transport and storage at these temperatures.

The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine would be unsuitable for India due to its extreme cold storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius… once thawed it is reported to be viable only up to two days in the refrigerator, Mr. Jameel, director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University in Haryana, told PTI.

Mr. Rath added that the mRNA vaccine is completely impractical for India unless it can be shown that those conditions are substantially relaxable.

Also, Sputnik V typically needs low-temperature storage at minus 20 degrees Celsius, which is less impossible, but still quite hard to imagine Indian public healthcare delivery systems achieving them successfully unless it can be shown that those conditions are substantially relaxable, Mr. Rath added.

Raghavan Varadarajan, professor at Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc), agreed that the Pfizer vaccine requires very low temperature storage, and is unsuitable for widespread deployment in India. The experts concurred that from the current less-than-a-dozen frontrunners in Phase 3 trials, or the final stage, the Novavax one is the more suitable vaccine for India.

Also Read: Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Is 94.5 Per Cent Effective

The vaccine with the best immunogenicity so far is the protein vaccine from Novavax but I don’t know what timelines, price etc. are going to be, Mr. Vardarajan told PTI.

Immunogenicity is the ability of a vaccine to provoke an immune response in the body.

The decision should be taken based on multiple factors including safety, efficacy,price, and ease of deployment. But even more, I would like to see the many protein-based vaccine candidates being developed in India and outside to mature. More in the future, I would like to see the maturation of some of the nasal vaccine delivery platforms being tried, Mr. Vardarajan said.

So what would be the best for India? Jameel said India should go with vaccines that require storage and transport in liquid form — i.e. between 4 to 10 degrees Celsius — and not the ones that have to be kept frozen.

Several COVID-19 vaccines under testing do not require deep freezing. Good examples are the experimental vaccines of Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford and Sanofi-GSK, expected to be kept and shipped in an unfrozen state, he said.

Mr. Rath said India should be proactively encouraging of all potential COVID-19 vaccine candidates being developed in the country, adding that will provide multiple options, and will allow a much better negotiating position vis-a-vis any eventual SARS-CoV-2 vaccine purchase.

Also Read: Bharat Biotech Starts Phase III Trials For COVID-19 Vaccine COVAXIN

Even if the storage is not factored in, Jameel argued, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would not be accessible to India in the near future for reasons of pre-approval purchase and cost.

USA’s Operation Warp Speed has promised Pfizer USD 1.95 billion to provide 100 million doses, which means its entire stock of 50 million doses for 2020 and another 50 million, possibly for Quarter 1 of 2021, he said.

The USA has also provided USD 2.5 billion to Moderna to buy an undisclosed number of doses. Similarly, the UK, Japan and other developed economies have also pre-booked orders. Cost is the other factor with both RNA vaccines costing USD 20 to US 35 per dose, Mr. Jameel added.

Five vaccine candidates are currently undergoing clinical trials in India. These include three that are in advanced stages of trials — the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate for which the Pune-based Serum Institute is conducting Phase 3 clinical trials, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin which is also in Phase 3, and Russia’s Sputnik V which is expected to start Phase 2/3 trials next week. The other two candidates are Cadila’s experimental vaccine that has almost completed Phase 2 and a candidate by Biological E that in Phase 1/2.

Also Read: India’s Serum Institute Says Made 40 Million Doses Of AstraZeneca’s COVID Vaccine, To Make Novavax Shot Soon

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Coronavirus has spread to 194 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 19,66,15,634 and 41,98,750 have died; 6,33,31,644 are active cases and 12,90,85,240 have recovered as on July 30, 2021 at 4:07 am.


3,15,72,344 44,230Cases
4,05,155 1,315Active
3,07,43,972 42,360Recovered
4,23,217 555Deaths
In India, there are 3,15,72,344 confirmed cases including 4,23,217 deaths. The number of active cases is 4,05,155 and 3,07,43,972 have recovered as on July 30, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

62,90,156 7,242

81,933 3,980

60,75,888 11,032

1,32,335 190


33,49,365 22,064

1,55,327 5,287

31,77,453 16,649

16,585 128


29,01,247 2,052

23,277 685

28,41,479 1,332

36,491 35

Tamil Nadu

25,55,664 1,859

21,207 314

25,00,434 2,145

34,023 28

Andhra Pradesh

19,62,049 2,107

21,279 280

19,27,438 1,807

13,332 20

Uttar Pradesh

17,08,373 60

784 16

16,84,834 44


West Bengal

15,26,539 766

11,300 70

14,97,116 822

18,123 14


14,36,144 51

554 19

14,10,541 70



10,01,781 130

2,086 140

9,86,175 270



9,74,132 1,615

15,276 489

9,53,088 2,039

5,768 65


9,53,622 17

259 9

9,44,410 26



8,24,829 27

268 6

8,14,485 33


Madhya Pradesh

7,91,796 18

130 0

7,81,153 18



7,69,858 30

712 10

7,59,516 17

9,630 3


7,24,719 46

481 1

7,14,596 42

9,642 3


6,43,716 623

9,188 126

6,30,732 746

3,796 3


5,99,005 58

553 6

5,82,162 60

16,290 4


5,64,030 1,299

14,114 385

5,44,695 1,664

5,221 20


3,47,105 56

259 22

3,41,720 34



3,41,982 48

669 3

3,33,952 51


Jammu And Kashmir

3,21,207 181

1,144 5

3,15,686 175

4,377 1

Himachal Pradesh

2,05,728 229

1,098 145

2,01,110 84



1,70,900 90

1,077 5

1,66,679 93

3,144 2


1,20,725 98

972 49

1,17,961 49



96,824 1,000

10,895 27

84,408 1,016

1,521 11


78,059 271

3,640 221

73,665 488

754 4


63,745 731

5,750 294

56,933 423

1,062 14


61,948 5

37 1

61,102 4


Arunachal Pradesh

47,477 335

4,252 49

43,000 383

225 1


37,171 764

11,862 252

25,168 511

141 1


27,653 67

1,299 51

25,798 114

556 4


26,132 276

3,297 180

22,498 92

337 4


20,324 4

60 4

20,057 8


Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,643 1

36 5

10,603 6



10,162 7

70 6

10,042 13


Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,534 3

10 3



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