The Kovid-19 epidemic is forcing us to strengthen our ability to deal with unforeseen circumstances. For many weeks television anchors have been asking experts when the vaccine will arrive. Our government has said that the vaccine will come by the first quarter of next year.
Similar things have also been done by other claimants of the vaccine. But we know that no date of arrival of vaccine or vaccine can be fixed because it is a long process. Recently global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced that it was stopping ongoing clinical trials for the Kovid-19 vaccine after a volunteer had spinal cord inflammation.
However, clinical trials of the AstraZeneca-Oxford Coronavirus vaccine AZD 1222 have been resumed in the UK until this article was written, when the medical health regulatory authority there confirmed that the test was safe.
Testing of this much-awaited vaccine is very important for India, as an Indian vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, is part of it. It is manufacturing the Covishield vaccine at the University of Oxford, but clinical trials of the vaccine have been stopped in India.
The Serum Institute of India says the second and third phase clinical trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Kovid-19 vaccine will resume after the green clearance from the Drug Controller General of India.
All of this clearly shows the fluctuations and potential delays related to the development of a promising vaccine against the coronavirus. There are currently nine potential vaccines in the Phase III trial. Phase III trials of AstraZeneca's first Kovid-19 vaccine are currently on hold.
Unlike the first two phases of the test (in which healthy adults are vaccinated), the third stage trial involves a large number of participants. This means that the common side effects of the vaccine are also not found during this phase.
But there are some major issues here. Phase III trials of the Kovid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University at dozens of sites in the US do not necessarily lead to disappointment. Nor does the resumption of clinical trials guarantee that no further interruptions will occur.
As public health and vaccine expert Chandrakant Lahariya points out, it shows that potential vaccines should be rigorously tested even in times of pandemic, and what has happened is reassuring and will increase people's confidence in the vaccine.
He adds that even though vaccine availability is delayed, it assures everyone that all necessary investigations have been followed with scientific rigor and that no compromise with safety will be made.
This is important at a time when politics seems to be defeating science in many countries and politicians seek to divert attention from the main issue in search of good news and fear of a vaccine race.
As we collectively grapple with this new virus and economic downturn in India, the data related to the Korana infection are disappointing. There have already been more than 78,000 deaths due to Kovid-19 in our country.
We are also the second most corona-infected country after America. It is still unclear how the deaths due to suspected or potential Kovid-19 are included in estimates of Kovid-19 mortality.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines suggest that suspected or potential Kovid-19 deaths should be included in the Kovid-19 death toll data based on the World Health Organization's Code. However, this guideline is in the form of consultation and it is not certain whether all states are following these recommendations.
Last week, we got to read and hear some official confessions regarding the actual number of Kovid-19 infections in the country. According to recently released results of the first serosurvey conducted by more than 50 scientists from ICMR and other institutions, there were potentially 64 million cases of Kovid-19 infection in India and 82 to 130 unknown infections of Corona. Only one of the cases could be confirmed.
This means that we cannot stop taking precautions at all. We must fully follow the three main non-pharmacological strategies — say Lahariya — whenever we go out, wear a mask and keep a sanitizer together; Always take care of social distancing and wash hands regularly with soap-water.
We should not follow these steps only because the government or some experts have asked us to do this, but because the pandemic will spread further and our lives will be in danger.
The second important thing to keep in mind is that we are not fully aware of the long-term effects of Kovid-19 on health. What happened to those who had the infection and were later officially declared healthy, needs to be ascertained.